A few weeks ago Peters Township senior Kyle Higgins found himself swimming the 100-yard backstroke like a fly in someone's soup: alone.
In a home meet against West Allegheny, he set the pool record.
A race later, Higgins' teammate, Chris Buzard, had a similar experience in the 100-yard breaststroke. Buzard also set the pool record in the event.
These two experiences lead to one conclusion about the Peters' Township boys' swimming team: When you're among the best, your toughest competition may be against yourself.
"Ideally, you are in a close race that makes you swim faster, but the really great swimmers race [against] themselves," coach Tom Fletcher said.
Before meets, Fletcher pulls the Peters team together to do a review of the upcoming competition. Because the Peters team competes at a high level, the swimmers must often compete against their own best times and those of their teammates.
"We talk before every race, usually to get an idea of who's in it and what the competition is going to be," Fletcher said. "A lot of times the swimmers do realize it's got to be a motivation that comes from within rather than from a direct competitor."
As Section 4-AAA swimming gets underway, Peters Township has a stacked schedule. They face Mt. Lebanon this week, Upper St. Clair next week, and Bethel Park the week after that. But, to Fletcher, the tough meets are where "the fun really starts."
"Anytime we swim against these other really strong teams it's a game of chess -- our best swimmers can only compete four times," Fletcher said. "It's about finding the matchups you can exploit best."
The toughest meets on the schedule are where Peters' internal and competitions converge. The Indians must rely on depth to create their most favorable matchups, and Fletcher uses internal competition to gauge team depth before a given meet.
When given the example of the 400-yard freestyle relay, Fletcher said that there were only three spots currently determined. Higgins and Buzard occupied two of them, and senior Dan Pletz had the third.
"Beyond that, we have some really good competition going on for the fourth spot on the relay to swim with those other three guys," Fletcher said.
He estimated that during the next three weeks of tough meets, the fourth relay team member would emerge and cement his place. Fletcher did not rule out practice time as a venue for Indians' internal competition.
"In a meet, everyone's a little more motivated, but in practice is where we get a good idea of who really wants it," he said.
Fletcher then named three swimmers -- freshman Sebastian Yocca as well as juniors Connor Martin, Adam Harsch -- as candidates to step up. These three Peters Township swimmers are among those competing the hardest for relay spots. They want to be the most versatile pieces in the chess game of WPIAL swimming.
"Every day we try to race in practice," Fletcher said. "I think it's important to race every day at practice."
This year, he increased morning practice time to three mornings per week at one and a half hours per practice. The Indians also got an extra day of weightlifting each week.
But, it's all in the name of getting better and stronger, regardless of what opponents are doing.
"This year our focus is on the end of the year," Fletcher said. "This year we have one goal in mind, and it is to swim fast at WPIALs."