MOUNT VERNON — After swimming for Mount Vernon his freshman year, Luke Pusateri decided to swim only for club and country the next two.
He swam with the Philippine Junior National Team and the Skagit Valley Family YMCA Chinook Swim Team before returning to swim this year for the Bulldogs.
And the program is happy he did as Pusateri earned a second-place finish at the Class 4A championships in the 200 individual medley and a fifth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
For his outstanding efforts this season, Pusateri has been named Skagit Valley Herald Boys’ Swimmer of the Year.
“This season has been amazing for me,” Pusateri said. “I competed and finaled at Winter Junior Nationals. I have swam lifetime bests in all my events. I was quite surprised with how I competed.
“I did not expect to swim this fast at all my meets and drop lots of time. At the same time, the rest of my season is up in the air because of the coronavirus.”
This season, Pusateri won Northwest 4A District titles in both of his individual events, and broke a 2-year-old meet record by swimming the 200 individual medley in 1 minute, 50.79 seconds.
He also had a National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association automatic all-American time in the breaststroke and an all-American consideration time in the individual medley.
His state meet swims — 1:51.39 in the individual medley and 56.03 in the breaststroke — went as well as he could have expected.
“I think I swam pretty well at state considering all the swimming I had done the last month,” he said. “Of course, I wanted to get first, but I was happy for the first-place finisher and a really good friend of mine, Justin Limberg. The week before I had beat him for first place in districts so we just switched places and were happy to push each other.”
He added his time in the 200 individual medley was very fast.
“I swam the best I could at the time,” he said. “I don’t think I could have changed anything.”
Swimming is a way of life for Pusateri. He first took to the pool as a 6-year-old, and a year later was swimming competitively.
Being Filipino, he has dual citizenship. That allows him to swim for the Philippine Junior National Team at the Southeast Asian Age Group National Games.
“I am planning to continue to swim for the Philippines, hopefully competing in the bigger international meets,” Pusateri said.
He made the decision to put his international swimming on hold his senior year to swim for Mount Vernon. The decision was easy and the reason straightforward.
“I wanted to swim with my friends,” he said. “I had a lot of fun and it was definitely worth my time.”
So, just what exactly allows Pusateri to excel in the pool?
“I would say my years of training combined with my hard work and determination,” he said.
Having a body type that lends itself to swimming also doesn’t hurt.
“My stroke technique and body build,” he added. “I also have an amazing coach, Carol Mochkatel, who I’ve been working with for the last seven years. I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”
COVID-19 has Pusateri’s upcoming meets in limbo. It has canceled the YMCA Nationals and pushed back the Southeast Asian Age Group Games to October.
Other national meets are up in the air as well.
What isn’t up in the air is where Pusateri will be swimming next season. He will take his 3.9 GPA to UC San Diego, where he will compete for the Tritons while studying human biology in order to pursue a career in medicine/health care.
“Looking back, I do not regret leaving and not swimming all four years,” he said. “I needed to leave to regain what I lost my freshman year and improve on all aspects of my swimming. This year, I was lucky enough that everything was in place for me to swim my senior year.”