Marian’s Berlitz is TN Swimmer of the Year
Marian’s Danny Berlitz had one goal in mind for his senior season.
For most swimmers, his objective might have seemed a bit lofty. Berlitz, however, isn’t your average high school swimmer.
“Definitely two gold medals (at states),” he said. “That was the intention as soon as I jumped into the pool (this year).”
While many athletes and coaches like to set their goals high in hopes of reaching them, Berlitz sets them with one thought — achieving them.
“I’ve been coaching 20 years, and he’s definitely a one-of-a-kind kid,” said Matt Beckwith, the head coach at Parkland Aquatic Club where Berlitz trains. “Once he sets a goal, he’s going to do everything until he gets there.”
Not surprisingly, Berlitz was able to claim the double victory at Bucknell. He cruised to first in the 200 IM, finishing almost seven seconds ahead of the next fastest competitor, and then outdueled one of his rivals (Clearfield’s Luke Mikesell) in the 500 freestyle in record time. By the way, he was also named the Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet.
That performance, along with his accomplishments at leagues and districts, has earned Berlitz his fourth straight Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Swimmer of the Year award.
“It was really a great year,” said Berlitz. “Coming out of states as the swimmer of the meet in my senior year, that was amazing. From setting a bunch of pool records (at Tamaqua, Pottsville and Parkland) ... to breaking a state record — just everything collective was amazing.
“It’s kind of crazy (looking back). I look at the videos ... from my freshman year and I saw the 200 IM at states and I was like 1:56. Now I’m down to 1:47, and that’s crazy to think that I could drop that much time and that much has changed. To look at my strokes and see the adjustments ... and how far I’ve come is truly amazing.”
Berlitz set records at the Schuylkill League Championships in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke — events which aren’t even his strongest. He also established those marks without having tapered. At districts, he won gold in the 200 IM and 500 free, breaking his own records in the process.
“My focus (at districts) was to get to states with a good seed time,” said Berlitz, the son of Melissa and Dan Berlitz. “I was also trying to chase the two pool records. I broke the 200 IM and just missed the 500 free. That was kind of like a goal for me to try and break those records and know that going into states I’d have those times ... and know that I could go faster because I wasn’t shaved or tapered.
“For the 200 IM (at states, the plan was) to work on the first half because I knew my second half would be stronger. And in the 500 free, I’m more of a go-out-front-and-hold-it (swimmer, where Luke is) coming home fast all the time. I knew that I had to be prepared for him to come home hard and really fast ... Definitely the last 150 was an all-out sprint. But I’m glad he was there because he definitely helped me with my time.”
Mikesell, who finished second in the 500, is in a group of many who have failed to touch the wall before Berlitz.
“He’s a competitor, absolutely,” said Beckwith. “He could be your best buddy outside of the water. He’ll be high-fiving you and chatting everybody up, but once he gets to the block and the goggles go on, it’s on. . Once he’s in the pool, it’s all business.
“His training is on a different planet than anyone else. ... When you talk about people that hate to lose more than they love to win, he could be put into that category. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan were like that, and so is Danny ... When he goes to Michigan, with that kind of staff and the training there, it’s going to be scary to see what happens. I believe he hasn’t even scratched the surface yet.”
While Berlitz is excited about attending the University of Michigan and competing at the NCAA level, there is a part of him that will miss being in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“I’ve made so many friends, and I have so many bonds and friendships here that it’s tough to be leaving,” said Berlitz. “But at the same time, I’m going to a top-tier distance program, and I’m excited to see what I can do there.”
While expectations are for Berlitz to be in longer races in college (500 or 1,650 free), Beckwith believes Berlitz could compete in any number of events.
“A year from now, if you see him in the IM at the NCAAs it wouldn’t be surprising to me,” said Beckwith. “We didn’t lift with him here because it wasn’t a reality with his travel and from a time standpoint. Everything he did for strength was mostly stuff he did on his own. They’re going to take him in the weight room and make him stronger.
“You could see him using that strength to explode in 200 races. Or they could just use him in longer races. He’s able to do either. He probably would have placed in the 50 (at states) and he can go all the way up to the 1,650. To have that range is astonishing ... He’ll definitely do something there. Just keep your eye on him.”