Melanie Chambers said that she expected big things from Nathan Braun this year, and the DeKalb-Sycamore co-op swimmer delivered.
After a strong junior season and an appearance at the IHSA state finals, where he finished 24th in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 51.53, Braun has been named the Daily Chronicle Boys Swimmer of the Year.
Braun’s journey started at age 11 when some friends convinced him to join a local club swimming team.
“They said, ‘Hey you should join,’ ” Braun said. “I was kind of worried at first. I didn’t know if I would be good at swimming or if I would fit in.”
Braun ultimately stuck with it and became a leader on the Barbs.
With 30 athletes on the varsity level from two different schools, Braun said that the team’s large numbers and diverse cast create an interesting dynamic.
“It’s not all that weird,” Braun said. “We all text each other and message one another. ... This year, I decided that I was going to change and step up as a leader. I was trying to help people out. In return, people were helping out with me. There was a give and take with the team this year. That was one of the big benefits this year.”
Braun swims for the Barbs, as well as a club team. The coaching staff on Braun’s club team has been in flux this season, with coaches coming and going.
One thing that has remained constant for Braun, he said, is the positive influence of Chambers.
“Coach Chambers has been one of the most helpful coaches of my career,” Braun said. “She’s always helpful. Even if you’re not the state qualifier, [Chambers] is still there. A lot of people go to her for help even outside of the pool.”
Chambers said it was reassuring to know she’s having an effect on her swimmers.
Chambers appreciated the kind words from Braun.
“He is one of the most dedicated members of our team,” Chambers said. “I am hoping now that he has been to state, he can achieve more and set higher goals when he gets back to state. I would like to see him get qualified into more than one event as an individual.”
Braun said that while he doesn’t know exactly where he wants to go to college in the fall of 2019, he is thinking about how swimming fits into his future.
“I see swimming as a help and a building point in college,” Braun said. “I want to be on a college team where the guys will hold me accountable, so I am not going to slack on grades or get involved in the wrong areas. I see it as a building block, but maybe not 100 percent as competitive as I was in high school.”