Kris Babylon is one of the most decorated swimmers in state history.
He was a All-American in the early 1990s at St. Paul’s, a three-time All-Southeastern Conference selection at Georgia and a U.S. national record holder. His name is still peppered throughout local and collegiate record books.
Now, he’s the coach at his high school alma mater.
Babylon, 37, inherits the team from his former coach, Bill Babcock. Babcock will remain as an assistant this season, but Babylon is in charge, though both agree they have similar coaching styles.
That will make for a seamless transition, Babylon, Babcock and their swimmers said.
“This feels full circle,” Babylon said. “It’s cool because of the guys on this team. Having been an assistant and a part of past teams here, and knowing these guys have had success, it’s great to share in that camaraderie.
“I’ve known a lot of them for years coaching (local year-round team) Blast. Now, many of them are seniors, so it’s nice to share this with them.”
What the Wolves hope to share in 2015 is continued success. St. Paul’s has been a player for many years at every level. They appear primed for another solid season with experience throughout the roster.
“I’m looking to bring out the best swimmer inside of me,” said senior Harrison Prieto. “I feel like I’m in a good spot conditioning wise for the training cycle. I’ve been working on things like hand entry; small things that make a difference. I think I’ve made progress.”
Prieto excels in the freestyle and in the backstroke. He finished second in the Division I championships as a sophomore and fourth last year.
“I think he has the potential to (win it,)” Babylon said. “This may be the deepest backstroke field I’ve ever seen. It may take a state record to do it.”
Winning titles begins in practice, and Babylon said senior Griffin Guzan is helping the Wolves get better.
“He brings stability and a work ethic that elevates everyone’s practice game,” Babylon said. “He’s a great leader.”
Guzan has personal goals. A butterfly specialist, he has his sights set on a state record in the 100 fly.
“The state record is (49 seconds),” he said. “(In a Futures meet at Purdue University earlier this year,) my time translated to a low 49. I can be right there. Honestly, I want to go a 48 or even a 47.”
Of course, having the benefit of Babylon urging him to higher levels is stimulating.
“Obviously I’ll miss Bill (as head coach),” Guzan said. “I’ve been with him since I was 6. But to have (Babylon,) the best athlete who has ever gone through St. Paul’s, to have that kind of experience coaching you? That’s key. … He’ll put us in the best position we can be.”
Jack Chang, a senior freestyler, said “building relationships” with fellow swimmers and his coaches was special, after transferring from Hammond High two years ago. He said there’s little difference between Babcock and Babylon, which should portend good things to come for St. Paul’s.
“It’s like the same coach, really. I guess the biggest difference is they tell different jokes,” Chang quipped.
Babylon agreed and said Babcock has been one of his long-time role models.
“I have the utmost respect for him,” Babylon said. “Standing on those shoulders, it’s a really great view.”