KENT: On the football field, Corey Spicer just looks like another one of the guys.
Put him in a swimming pool and things start to look a little out of place.
Spicer, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior at Kent Roosevelt, is one of the Rough Riders’ best at both football and swimming.
An unusual combination, but not so unique when considering his family history.
His mother, Cathy, got him in the pool at 5 years old. She is an avid swimmer herself — at the time coaching in Tallmadge at the Maca Pool where Corey first remembers swimming. Cathy also swam at Youngstown State where she held numerous records for years in long-distance events.
Cathy’s sister, Carol Bender, swam alongside Cathy at Tallmadge High School where they advanced to the state finals and then followed her to Youngstown State after they both received swimming scholarships. Bender now works at Roosevelt as a swimming instructor for younger children and can often be found around the pool while Corey practices.
His father, Mike, can be credited with influencing Corey on the football field. He also went to Youngstown State where he played safety and defensive back after playing four years at Massillon High School.
Corey’s younger brother, Nick, a freshman, also plays football and swims for Roosevelt and older brother Justin works at the Roosevelt pool as a lifeguard after playing baseball, basketball and running cross country during his time at Roosevelt. Cousin Julia Sincel, Carol’s daughter, is currently a part of the Roosevelt swim program and her sister Monica recently graduated after swimming for Roosevelt.
This deep athletic network leads to as many as 15-20 family members being in the stands for the biggest swim meets and football games, giving Corey a leg up on his peers and competition by not only having such a strong support system, but one that understands what’s happening on the field or in the pool.
“My mom is always telling me, ‘Make sure you’re not breathing too much,’ or, ‘Make sure to keep your head down and arms back,’ ” Corey said. “Just telling me little things when she watches that the coach may not see. She’s always watching me to make sure I’m doing my stroke correctly.”
“My dad is definitely a little harder on me,” Spicer said with a laugh. “Playing football, when we go over to the sideline for a timeout I always listen to what’s going on there but then I always see him in the stands saying or motioning something to me. I know he’s always there coaching me and then afterwards he’ll ask me what I thought I did right and wrong and he helps me out with my technique.”
Spicer played defensive end, tight end and punted for Roosevelt’s football team as a senior. For the swim team, he swims the 50- and 100-meter freestyles as well as being on the “A” relay teams in the medley and 200 freestyle.
His size is obviously an advantage in football as he overpowers offensive linemen in a relentless pursuit of the quarterback.
In swimming, it can go both ways.
“I definitely get some looks like ‘Oh, I think I can beat this kid’ and whatnot,” Spicer said. “People are surprised because I’m so big but can still swim as fast as these kids that are half my weight. I just feel like it’s all technique. You’ve just got to know what you’re doing. That, with all the strength and conditioning I’ve been doing, really helps me in swimming.”
Though the strength and muscle Spicer builds during the football season can help him overpower other swimmers, Roosevelt coach James Hunt notes that swimming isn’t a power sport and that Spicer’s size can sometimes be a disadvantage to him in the pool. The two main things Hunt is working on with Spicer are his turns and being fast off the starting block.
“A kid that’s 5-5, 120 pounds can spin like a gymnast but with Corey we kind of have to plan ahead,” Hunt said. “What we’re working on now is getting him faster off the block, a lot of the inertia and weight has to be going in the right direction at the right time without false starting. But his agility is exceptional for a guy that big.”
“I’ve really been working on my turns to get my feet to flip faster,” Spicer said, “just to shave off those milliseconds on the 50 freestyle. Because those can mean everything.”
Though the conditioning for football and swimming couldn’t be more different, Spicer has found out over the years that by getting into a running routine toward the end of football season he can make the transition between the two seasons more smoothly. And as someone who never comes off the field for the Roosevelt football team, the conditioning he gets from swimming couldn’t be more crucial.
“I also eat better during swimming season,” Spicer said. “I can’t eat all the food like I do during football right now.”
The main thing that Hunt sees Spicer carry over from the football field to the pool is the intensity and leadership. He became one of the leaders of the Roosevelt defense alongside Matt Sommers this year and is emerging as a team leader for Roosevelt’s swim program despite it being more of an individual sport.
After making it to the district meet in his sophomore and junior years, Spicer hopes to return alongside his teammates this season. His other goal is to break 22 seconds in the 50 freestyle. Despite all the differences between the bruising sport that is football and the graceful one that is swimming, the one thing Spicer finds in common between the two that keeps him going is the competition.
“I just love it,” Spicer said. “When I get beat on a play on the football field it’s just like when I see a guy a little ahead of me in the pool. It gives me the drive to keep going. If someone is doing better than me, I want to do better than them. That’s when my gears switch and I turn it up a notch. It’s what keeps me going.”