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Canisius' Boyd showed speed from the start ; Freshman top ranked in state in 500 free

It may have been accidental that Jack Boyd got into swimming, but there is no mistaking the immediate impact of this Canisius freshman.

This 15-year-old from Buffalo is in the fast lane to becoming the fastest distance swimmer Western New York has ever produced. His time of 4:36.83 in the 500 freestyle is one tick off All-America consideration as well as the Section VI record of 4:35.75 held since 2002 by Jamie Miller of Frontier.

He's ranked No. 1 in New York State in the 500 by a healthy 6-second margin. He won the 500 at the recent Viking Invitational in Cleveland, which drew a field of 69 teams.

It's an impressive start to a career that almost didn't happen.

When Jack was a grade-school student at Mount St. Joseph Academy, his father, Steve, was asked if Jack could join the swim team to help fill out the roster. He said 'no.' The next year, the school's coaches approached Boyd's mother, Katherine, and got the answer they were looking for.

"One of the assistant coaches looked up at me after the first practice and said, 'You know he's fast, right,?' " said Steve Boyd. "That was the first time anyone said something to me. He showed some natural ability right then, and he's been going fast ever since."

Jack joined the club team SHAQ as a 9-year-old and has shown great development under current coach Vince McCarthy.

While his ascent in swimming may have been unforeseen, his choice to attend Canisius High School was not. Boyd's grandfather on his mother's side, George P. Doyle, graduated from Canisius in 1953 and his great-grandfather, Vincent E. Doyle, was a 1913 graduate. It's a lineage Boyd is proud of. "Ever since kindergarten knowing my grandfather and great-grandfather went there, that's where I wanted to go," said Boyd.

The transition in the classroom has been smooth as well, as Boyd made the high honor roll in his first marking period.

Boyd doesn't have to look far when it comes to competition. He gets his fill from teammate Alec Pokornowski, a three-time state qualifier in the 200 and 500 freestyle. Pokornowski has made state cut times in five events and is ranked No. 1 in the state in the 200 free and second in the 100 back and 500. Their freshman-to-senior relationship is a special one.

"When you're swimming against people a lot older, you lose," said Boyd. "One of the best is Alec. I lose to him a lot. But you have to lose to get better. He's kind of been mentoring me and helping me in practice. He really is a great friend."

Boyd said he approaches swimming the 500 by breaking the race into 100s and setting goals. He said he also benefits from having his younger brother, Patrick, as his lap counter.

Canisius is a heavy favorite to win its ninth All-Catholic Championship, but the Monsignor Martin Association is only a three-team league with St. Joe's and St. Francis. With a small league and the inability to schedule locally, the Crusaders have to look elsewhere for meets.

They won Saturday's Schenectady Patriots Invitational. Pokornowski was named Swimmer of the Meet after he broke meet and pool records in the 200 and 500. They are also looking forward to the National Catholic Championships Jan. 29-30 at Villanova. The NYS Catholic meet on Long Island Feb. 12-13 is also something they are tapering toward.

Canisius has the depth to do well in all. Consider that senior Garrett Graesser (50), sophomore Will McCauley (200, 200 IM, 500), junior Dylan Telford (200, 500), sophomore Christian Westermeier (200 IM) and senior Kyle Smith (100 fly) already have state cut times.

The 200 and 400 free relay teams are ranked No. 1 in the state and the medley relay is No. 2. And that's no accident.

e-mail: mmonnin@buffnews.com