GARDNER — Sam Folger, a senior at Ayer-Shirley Regional High, and Amanda Witkus, a sophomore at Whitinsville Christian, have been named to USA Swimming’s prestigious Scholastic 2020-21 All-America team.
Stars on the Greenwood Swimming team under the direction of coach Don Lemieux, Folger and Witkus have met the requirements of maintaining a minimum 3.5 grade point average, plus making select cut times in individual junior national meets.
“Both Sam and Amanda swim their best in the butterfly events,” said Lemieux, whose team is currently practicing at the Mount Fitness pool on the campus of Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner. “They both will swim in the USA Junior Nationals in March and then will try to make the Olympic Trials next June.”
Scholastic All-America members, who receive a certificate as well as a bag tag, are selected from grades 9-12 from high schools throughout the country. They represent only 1 percent of all USA Swimmers.
Like athletes across the globe, Folger and Witkus have had their specialized sports training schedules upended since the COVID-19 outbreak last March. Because of restrictions, Greenwood swimmers were not allowed to practice in their usual spot at the pool at WPI.
“We were out of any pool from mid-March to mid-June,” said Lemieux, a Gardner resident and former director of the Greenwood Memorial indoor pool, which is now closed.
“It’s been tough with every sport, but we were lucky to train all summer at the Greenwood outdoor pool, and we got right back into it. Now I think we’re in the best shape of our lives,” said the 15-year-old Witkus, who lives in Northbridge.
For both Witkus and Folger, biking, weightlifting and open-water swimming on lakes replaced indoor swimming during the long layoff. In addition, they had to balance remote school work during the pandemic with their demanding training and schoolwork.
Folger, 17, who lives in Shirley, said: “I did a lot of running and dry-land training at home, basically anything I could do to stay in shape.”
Carrying a 3.9 grade point average, Folger has verbally committed to swim for Division 1 Penn State University in 2021 and is considering majoring in economics or political science.
Looking ahead to her own college years, Witkus said, “Like Sam, I want to swim for a D1 program, and I would like to study business. I love Sam’s work ethic and commitment. He’s someone that you just want to be around when you swim because he’s so motivated and focused on his goals.”
Lemieux pointed out that both Folger and Witkus do so well in the butterfly because of their exceptional arm strength needed for the demanding signature “pull” required as the main part of the stroke.
Folger, in the 200-yard butterfly, owns the Greenwood Swim record of 1 minute, 48 seconds.
At the New England Swimming Senior Championship last December at Brown University, Witkus notched her personal-best time of 2:00.81 in the 200-yard butterfly.
When not swimming 21 hours per week — or studying — Witkus, the daughter of Stephen and Marcia Witkus of Northbridge, is an accomplished dirt bike rider. “I’m all about speed, and I think I’m a very competitive person,” she said.
Folger, the son of Bob and Katrina Folger of Shirley, saves his speed for swimming laps in the pool. “I like fishing during my off time. I also like watching basketball,” he said.
Both swimmers agree on their favorite all-time Olympian swimmer — Michael Phelps.
—Contact Jay Gearan at [email protected]
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