East Xtra: Obama senior pools his talents
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Than Rabuzzi cuts through the water like a catamaran.
In the 2011 City League championship meet, he anchored Schenley's first place 400-yard relay team, traveling his 100 meters in a smoking 53.37 seconds. Rabuzzi also earned silver medals in the 500 and 200-yard freestyle events. Rabuzzi doesn't limit his freestyling to the pool, though.
A senior from Point Breeze, he also is a leader on the stage and in state government. Rabuzzi has been an actor/director in Schenley and now Obama Academy productions. He has also has held offices over three years in the YMCA Youth and Government program. But what draws a champion swimmer to the theater and the Capitol?
"The biggest thing between all of the activities is defensive teamwork," Rabuzzi said. "In each one there's the idea of individuality."
Rabuzzi describes the lone concentration of a swimmer in his lane, an actor in the spotlight, and an official giving his side of a debate. Although he gives his all to support his team and groups, Rabuzzi likes that he can use his individual talents to do it. He likes that he's not alone in the process.
"It's for the team, but not overriding the individual. And, you still have backup," Rabuzzi says. "You still have a family behind you."
Rabuzzi uses time-organization to keep his focus on a given activity despite his diverse interests.
"I'll go to morning swim practices and after school I'll go to theater," Rabuzzi explained.
If he competes in an afternoon meet, Rabuzzi will leave to go almost directly from the pool to play practice. For important meets with league-standing implications, Rabuzzi will stay with his team. Somehow, he keeps from speeding through play practices or monologueing in the water.
Perhaps Rabuzzi's history with swimming helps his concentration to come more easily. Rabuzzi began swimming competitively in elementary school. His older brother swam on a middle school team, so Rabuzzi participated in clubs until he could also swim for a school team.
Not surprisingly and fittingly, during the summers, Rabuzzi works as a lifeguard.
"I'm not at the top level [in swimming], necessarily," Rabuzzi said, "but being around the water is what I'm used to."
Rabuzzi's speed in the water might not be considered blinding, for Rabuzzi it's just blind. Rabuzzi requires corrective lenses, and only "splurges" on prescription goggles occasionally.
"I'm used to the fact that when I'm swimming, I just can't see that much," Rabuzzi says, good-naturedly.
His favorite competitive venues are the University of Pittsburgh's Trees Pool and the swimming facility at Shady Side Academy.
Rabuzzi didn't express a preference for any particular theater stage, but he is excited for this weekend's One Act plays. The One-Act plays are a funny, edgy, student-powered tradition that has passed from Schenley to Obama. Rabuzzi has been acting in the One-Acts since his freshman year.
"I would say that this year's are [as usual] very funny," he says. "We've got some spot-on funny moments, except for the one drama we always throw in."
Rabuzzi encourages theater fans to see what he and his classmates have put together. The plays will run Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. at the former Peabody High School building.
In addtion to his swimming and theatric pursuits, Rubuzzi has also shown an interest in giovernment. The YMCA's Youth and Government program provides high school students with the opportunity to participate in a three-day weekend in Harrisburg. The students assume the roles and offices of state government, and they work to produce legislation.
Rabuzzi has participated in the past as a representative and as a senator. This year he is a committee chair and club parliamentarian. His current roles allow him to moderate political debates.
"What I enjoy the most is just debate in general, like talking about real political issues and being able to write bills," Rabuzzi said.
Although Rabuzzi's college track is not yet finalized, his interests are currently in studying political science and marketing en route to attending law school.
He will continue to participate in drama events. He even intends to swim in college at an intramural level. For Rabuzzi has learned one thing swimming at the high school level that he will carry through competition and life.
"We do a thing the beginning of practice called the Perfect 50," he said. "You do 50 yards with the best technique possible."
"Perfect 50s" allow Obama swimmers to put themselves into the mindset of capability and optimism, and to eliminate the tendency to become discouraged. For Rabuzzi, the positive mindset flows over the edges of the pool.
It's taught him how to approach most challenges in life that he will undertake.
First Published December 15, 2011 12:00 am