coach calls sophomore “an amazing swimmer.”
He’s great at the backstroke and butterfly.
So one must ask: If he could win most races in those strokes at short distances, why in the world does he torture himself competing in arguably the most grueling event high school swimming has to offer?
The 500-yard freestyle.
Why? Well, that’s easy. Because it really isn’t all that hard, especially when you have experience swimming a couple of miles.
In open water, no less.
"My dad swims in the (San Francisco) Bay regularly,” Mattox explained. “He started taking me out to swim with him about two years ago. I got into swimming longer – one or two miles in the Bay. Now I try to compete in three or four open-water swims a year."
Mattox went to San Diego for a three-mile competition in September, finishing 11th, and also last October.. He says he can now focus on swimming, whereas he was a bit nervous about his surroundings in his first few open-water endeavors.
“There’s nothing really to be afraid of because it’s in the Bay,” he explained. “Nothing really comes into the Bay except seals. Occasionally they jump at you, but nothing has really happened to me.”
Mattox assures swimming miles in the Bay has helped him improve at the 500 free, which is slightly less than one-third of a mile. He’d swim a longer distance in prep meets if such events existed.
Even before he realized what a marathon man he had on his hands, Beutel was impressed basically from the moment he first saw Mattox dive into the pool as a freshman last season.
“A lot of times, especially distance swimmers, it takes a lot of maturing,” the coach noted. “But last year he jumped right in as one of the best in the conference.”
Mattox played a key role in Tam sweeping through the competition to capture the Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) boys title at 9-0. It helped that he had a teammate swimming right alongside much of the time.
joined Mattox to give Tam what Beutel labeled the league’s “best tandem of distance swimmers.”
“They both can do 500 yards in under five minutes, which is remarkable,” the coach gushed.
“The 500 free is contested about halfway through the meet. Even if we’re behind at that point, they give us points that put us ahead.”
The Red-tailed Hawks needed every point they could get in hard-fought wins over Terra Linda, Redwood and Marin Catholic. All will be rivals again in the MCAL Championships, which will begin with preliminaries Friday at Redwood and conclude with finals Saturday, also in the Giants’ pool.
Mattox, who also competes for North Bay Aquatics, knows Tam has the winning formula.
“Other teams like Redwood and Terra Linda have really fast swimmers. They can beat pretty much everyone on our team,” he said. “But we have a lot of depth. That helped us win dual meets -- and hopefully win MCALs again.”
If Tam is to duplicate its regular-season success this weekend, it’s going to need clutch performances by more than just Mattox and Sohn.
The Hawks also are counting upon Kai Brewer, who went undefeated in MCAL diving competition this season, senior captain Jake Weber, a freestyle sprinter who added the 100 fly to his schedule this year, and Riley Sykes, a do-it-all type who has improved on almost a weekly basis in the 200 IM.
Mattox warns MCAL and North Coast Section competition that his best 500 frees of the season are still ahead of him.
“I’ve been saving up my energy for MCALs and NCS,” he claimed.
Throw a couple of seals into the pool and he’ll win for sure.