In the Lackawanna-centric Wyoming Valley Conference North Division, it’s easy to overlook Ben Spencer and his Tunkhannock team.
But Spencer made sure his name, his team, and his athleticism wouldn’t be discounted with a record-breaking set of performances.
The Times Leader names Tunkhannock’s Ben Spencer the 2013 Boys Swimming and Diving Athlete of the Year, in honor of a season in which he collected two district championships and two state medals.
Spencer’s claim to fame came in the 200 IM in which he broke former Bishop Hoban star Mark Bellow’s 1990 record of 1:58.94 with a new district mark of 1:58.09. For Spencer, it’s a goal he’s had his eyes on since his sophomore season.
“During my sophomore year, I dropped something like 10 seconds off my time,” Spencer said. “I said then that my goal was to break a district record. It seemed in my grasp.
“I’m happy with my performance. I never really had anything in my life that I could relate to this. I’m going to enjoy it while I can.”
Spencer followed his 200 IM victory with a first-place finish in the 100 back in 53.65 seconds – just off another district record.
He followed suit at PIAAs with two state Class 2A medals. Spencer garnered fifth in the 200 IM at 1:58.24. He then took sixth in the 100 back in 53.21 seconds.
Like any good swimmer who strives for perfect, Spencer said he felt honored to be on the awards podium but lamented that his times could have been better at states.
“It’s funny because I was still sad and upset,” Spencer said. “I bettered my times but I still know that I didn’t go as low as I wanted.”
Spencer will have plenty of opportunities to lower his times after signing a scholarship to swim at Division II Clarion University. He plans on majoring in business administration.
For now, Spencer is content on making his teammates faster for next season, taking a mentor role during his final season. Two of his relays finished second at districts and qualified for states. His 200 medley relay team placed in ninth – one off of a state medal – with a 1:40.43.
“I basically want to them to practice as hard as I do,” Spencer said. “When I was a freshman, I worked my butt off to keep up with our faster seniors. I tried enforcing that mentality with them.
“It was great qualifying for relays because my teammates were there this time for me.”
Now that all is said and done, Spencer goes down as one of the most accomplished swimmers in Tunkhannock’s history.
“I definitely think I matured. That’s how I think I was able to make all of my goals. My coach (Tim Mislevy) really taught me life lessons along the way.”