A year ago, John Swabik was well on his way to tallying so many honors and awards in his high school athletic career, it would’ve taken quite the trophy case to display them all.
Then, a pandemic struck and put the multi-sport athlete’s career on pause.
“Last year before COVID hit, I was having the best sports year of my life,” said Swabik. “I had a chance to go to states in every sport I played. So that really got to me. … Now, I’m kind of numb at this point. It almost doesn’t seem real.”
This fall sports season would usually be different for Swabik, a Sherman High School senior who is still waiting to return to the field in not only football, but basketball and track & field, as well.
Swabik was poised to play a crucial role with the back-to-back Class D NY State Champion CSP Wolfpack football team. However, with the Section VI football season delayed until the early spring, Swabik is left waiting to defend his back-to-back state titles.
“The pandemic has thrown a wrench in all our plans, but we’re all just trying to make the best out of the situation,” said CSP Wolfpack football coach Ty Harper. “I definitely anticipate [Swabik] playing football in the spring and being an integral part of our team. … I would expect him to have a large impact on what we accomplish.”
At the time the pandemic impacted Section VI in March of 2020, Swabik was preparing for a state title run after winning the Section VI, Class D boys basketball title with Sherman before the state championships were called off.
As it turned out, Swabik not only missed out on a state title shot last winter, but also a chance to defend his 2019 D-II NY State Championship in the pentathlon — a title he earned with the CSP Wolfpack track & field team as a sophomore. Swabik finished second in the NY State pentathlon race in 2018 as a freshman before claiming the title the next year.
The frustration of consistently having roadblocks thrown up in his way has taken its toll on Swabik, who lives just minutes from the Pennsylvania border, where high school football is being played.
“That’s the biggest challenge — living 10 minutes from the PA border and seeing friends of mine be able to play, seeing other schools around here have 7-on-7 teams, and then for us, we can’t do anything,” said Swabik.
Still, Swabik has found a way to stay busy this fall. Section VI’s decision to welcome back lower-risk sports this fall has allowed Swabik the chance to return to competition with the CSP Wolfpack cross country team. Swabik had not ran cross country since his freshman year, as he stepped away to shift his focus to football.
“After my freshman year, I decided I wanted to play football instead. I said I’d never run cross country again, but God had other plans for me, I guess,” Swabik joked.
As with everything else Swabik has done across Section VI athletics, he is leaving everyone else in the dust. Most recently, Swabik led the Wolfpack to a victory over Frewsburg and Fredonia on Tuesday in a cross country meet in Panama with a time of 18:37 — 30 seconds faster than the closest competitor.
Well we got another win for CSP.. with no shoe wonder! Lil John lost his shoe half way through the race but kept running lol 😂 great job all Wolfpack runners for a job well done!
“John is such a special athlete, there’s really nothing he’s not good at,” said Harper.
On the gridiron, Swabik has played six different positions — wide receiver, running back, free safety, outside linebacker, kick returner and punt returner — in his time with the Wolfpack. Swabik also threw a stellar touchdown pass in the Section VI title game that landed him on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays on ESPN.
But it’s track & field that Swabik recognizes as his best chance for a career at the next level. Swabik has yet to make a college commitment, claiming he is “keeping his options open.” He has spoken to the University of Texas at Austin and has visited the University of Louisville, among others, as he sets his sights on a Division I scholarship.
This fall sports season is the first step toward getting back on track to making that dream a reality.
“It’s pretty cool to be back out there. I’m using it as a time to get my body right again,” said Swabik.
When you compare his past success in cross country — which included a second place finish at Sectionals and placing at States as a freshman — to where he’s at now, he appears to have not missed a beat.