This week, the Xavier E-News sat down with the Gerard “Rod” Walker Athlete of the Month, Thomas Uybico ’22, to talk about his swimming career and how his resilience led him to greatness.
Xavier E-News: Where are you from and how did you learn about Xavier?
Thomas Uybico ’22: I am from the Upper East Side, Manhattan. Xavier has been a part of my life for quite a while. My earliest memory of Xavier was watching my cousin Oliver Dabao ’15 play in the Turkey Bowl at Fordham University while the crowd collectively sang “Sons of Xavier” after they won. As an eighth grader trying to decide where to go for high school, my parents made it clear that Xavier would be the best place for me.
E-News: What have been your favorite classes and activities at Xavier?
Uybico: In my four years at Xavier, I’ve always enjoyed science, and the teachers I had consistently made an effort to give us fun and unique labs. My favorite class from this year would have to be Elements of Cinema with Mr. Vargas. On 16th Street, I find myself in the cafeteria eating, studying, and hanging out with friends.
E-News: What are you involved in at Xavier and off 16th Street?
Uybico: I am most involved on the swim team. As one of the team captains, I’ve been invested in trying to make this a memorable season for the other swimmers and improving the team as a whole. Whether it be leading the team cheer before meets, or writing workouts for the team, I’m fully invested in seeing the team sustain a level of excellence that we’ve enjoyed for the last few seasons. Off 16th Street, I train with Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics (AGUA) year-round and practice with them nine times a week. I also work at Asphalt Green as a lifeguard on weekends.
E-News: Who has been most influential to you during your time at Xavier?
Uybico: Between my parents, teachers, and coaches, the most influential people to me are my teammates—in particular, Sean Baldwin '20, Adam D’Souza '20, and Matthew Loftus '20. As a sophomore, I found myself looking to them for guidance when it came to swimming or school. They taught me how important it is to find a balance between schoolwork and practice. Even after they graduated, and during my college search process, they were super helpful.
E-News: What does your average day at Xavier look like? How do you balance all that you do?
Uybico: My average day at Xavier, when I don’t have morning practice before school, starts at 7 a.m. I roll out of bed, get my uniform on, and get ready for the day. I usually catch the Q train on 86th Street at 7:30 a.m. and get off at Union Square. Depending on my schedule for the day, and my free periods, I’ll try to grab a bacon, egg, and cheese with hash browns from the cafeteria for breakfast. During my free periods, I try to get work done and complete assignments. Also, when I remember to bring a change of clothes and sneakers, I go to the weight room between classes. After the bell rings at 2:40 p.m., I get ready for practice. Since Xavier doesn’t have a pool on campus, we have practices at the Convent of the Sacred Heart and home meets at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. Being a student-athlete requires me to excel at both sports and academics, but the balance is fragile. It would be really easy and tempting for sports to become a primary focus. Yet, it’s important to remember the words from the movie Coach Carter, “These…are student-athletes. ‘Student’ comes first.” Between AGUA practice, Xavier practices, swim meets, and homework, it becomes hard to juggle it all. If there’s one thing I can take from a Xavier education with me to college, it would be time management. My practices usually run from 6-8 p.m. so by the time I get home, I don’t have much time to procrastinate. To help stay on track and not put things off until the last minute, I keep a checklist of future assignments on my phone.
E-News: What are you most looking forward to throughout the remainder of your time at Xavier?
Uybico: These next few months are definitely going to go fast, and as graduation at St. Patrick’s Cathedral approaches, and my time at Xavier wraps up, I have a lot that I’m looking forward to. I have my last dual meet against St. Anthony’s High School at the end of the month, and we’ll also be having senior day at that meet. What I’m most looking forward to is the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) championship on February 12 and 13. This year, in particular, will be very competitive—after the CHSAA dominated the New York state championship in 2020, placing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th amongst almost 100 schools. Halfway through this season, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) changed the qualification standards for the New York state championship in March. Now, in order to swim at the state championships for the CHSAA to compete at states, you would need to win first place in the event. This limits the number of swimmers able to compete in the state championship. Amongst some of the top swimmers in the country, and the most competitive league in the state, this raises the stakes for the CHSAA championship as it could be my last time swimming for Xavier. I have lofty goals of breaking records and winning medals going into this meet.
E-News: What does it mean to be the recipient of the Gerard “Rod” Walker Athlete of the Month Award?
Uybico: Being the recipient of the Gerard “Rod” Walker Athlete of the Month Award means so much to me. Coming into Xavier as an eighth grader, I had no clue what I wanted to do and what sports I wanted to play. I didn’t realize I missed the tryouts for almost all of the fall sports. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to try out for the freshman swimming team, and after getting the chance to join the varsity team for the winter season, I fell in love with the sport. Looking back as a senior, the setbacks were what defined my high school career. In a sport where most athletes have been training since elementary school, I was at a massive training disadvantage. I've always felt like I had to catch up and improve in order to succeed. After an unremarkable freshman season, I came back after training year-round to win gold in the 200 medley relay and break the 200 freestyle record at the CHSAA championship. I would go on to compete at the New York state championship and be a part of a historic team that placed 5th in a field of almost 100 schools. I was also awarded The Reverend John F. O’Shea, S.J. Award for the outstanding sophomore athlete at the Block X ceremony. I thought I had reached the top, but it came crashing down when the pandemic left me out of the pool for seven months. Just as things began to open back up for me in December 2020, I dislocated my knee and it took me four months to get back to practicing again. I found myself swimming before I could walk without crutches, but even with multiple physical therapy sessions a week, I still ended up missing the entirety of my junior swim season. Fast forward exactly one year after I dislocated my knee, at a dual meet against Fordham Prep—I was able to break the Xavier record set back in 2017. I have learned that, as in swimming, life’s successes often come in small increments. Sometimes, even the act of showing up at a workout when my body and psyche are worn out separates a great result from a failure. Mental and physical resilience are what allow me to get better. Receiving the Gerard “Rod” Walker Athlete of the Month Award is an honor and an amazing milestone in an already memorable senior season.