Jack Duryea has been in the water for more than half of his life, so why stop now?
The Pierson senior, who has been swimming competitively since he was about 7 years old, will continue his swimming career at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, starting this fall.
Duryea is following in the footsteps of his older brother, Ryan, another Pierson graduate who just finished his first, albeit truncated, season at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. It’s no surprise to anyone that the Duryea brothers have both continued their swimming careers in college.
Both Jack and Ryan started taking swimming lessons at the East Hampton YMCA RECenter when they were 7 and 8, respectively, and not too long after, both joined East Hampton’s YMCA Club team, the Hurricanes. The head coach of that team, Tom Cohill, was quick to look up Jack’s first meet with the Hurricanes — October 16, 2010 — so he has a decade-plus-long relationship with the Duryea family, who he lauded for their time and commitment to the sport.
“It’s been a pleasure to see him develop as an athlete, but one of the things that’s most impressive was this past fall and summer. When we came back from COVID in August, Jack was just a natural leader on the team,” he explained. “He, and co-captain Bella Tarbet, were just such natural leaders on the team, and led by example, hard work, showing up to practice ready, on time, prepared, and ready to go.
“We saw a lot of improvement throughout the season. He dropped times in all of his events, and that’s always a pleasure to see that, especially when you’ve had someone in your program for over a decade,” Cohill continued. “I think that continued improvement says a lot about the athlete and the family, I think, as well.”
In addition to swimming with the Hurricanes, Jack was a five-year varsity swimmer on the East Hampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton boys swim team. He qualified for the New York State Championships in 2020 in the freestyle relay along with teammates Colin Harrison, Fernando Mejura and Owen McCormac. He was also named All-Long Island and was a two-time All-County selection and a three-time All-League swimmer. And in 2019, he was a part of the 200-yard medley relay team along with his brother, Joey Badilla, and Ethan McCormac, who competed at YMCA Nationals in North Carolina in 2019.
On top of being a competitive swimmer, Jack is a year-round ocean certified Southampton Town lifeguard who works primarily at Sagg Main Beach. East Hampton varsity swim coach Craig Brierley, who also happens to be a lifeguard, reiterated Cohill’s comments that Jack has become a leader his senior year, which is why he had no problem naming him the team’s MVP.
“Our varsity team was blessed to have Jack be a part of our journey the past five years and our team was much better because of it,” he said. “He has made a year-round commitment to swimming, as well as a life-long commitment to character, to discipline, to sacrifice, and to a greater good — the team. While it can be difficult for a teenager to navigate an athletic and academic landscape, Jack has done this and is a role model for those who value and pursue academics, athletics, and character on a high level. He was always eager to learn and would challenge coaches to be ready to provide a meaningful training session in order to improve daily and the teammates would feed off the energy as they all were excited to improve because of it.
“Jack was a captain and was well respected by the team,” Brierley continued. “It has been a true privilege to know and to have coached him.”
Duryea’s main event is the 100-yard breaststroke, but he also competed in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. What events he’ll swim at WPI is not known yet, he said, but he’s willing do whatever the team needs him to do.
Cohill, who wrestled at Hunter College, said acclimating to college will be the most important thing for Jack when he gets to WPI, not the actual swimming.
“That first year of school, you’re meeting so many new people, but you still have something that they share, and I think that experience for an athlete is unmatched and is so important, to get that first-year bond, it makes college an even more special place,” he said. “I still talk to my college friends, we still keep in touch, those that I played sports with in college. When you come from a small town and you go to a new place, it’s important to have that experience, and for Jack, that’s going to make his experience that much better on the competition level. He’s going to get together with a bunch of good people who also work hard, and Jack will certainly add to that intensity. He’s going to work hard and get better, that’s something Jack will not only share but add to for WPI.
“Whoever Jack’s coach will be, they’re going to like him and be very happy he’s on their team.”
Jack is very excited to start his next chapter in life.
“It’s obviously meant a lot to me,” he said of swimming. “To have a structured activity and a competitive sport to look forward to and a goal to work toward every single day. When I’m swimming, I have a goal to look toward and I want to achieve that goal. It’s hard to explain, but it keeps me busy.”