Kevin Ochoa competing in the pool. Photo from Blue and Gold archives.

A swimmer since age six, Kevin Ochoa has steadily improved and maintained his commitment to the sport but the senior, described by Athletic Director Charlie Conefrey as humble and “a silent leader,” never imagined he would become a member of a coveted and exclusive league of swimmers. Ochoa now joins the ranks of Elia Fish and Julie Dempster as the third state champion for swim in all of Malden High School history.

The success of the MHS swim team has experienced in recent seasons has been unprecedented and “extremely rare at the public school level,” says Conefrey, who has “never had to worry too much about the swim program.” Even in the midst of other competent and powerful swimmers, Ochoa showed particular promise to Conefrey since his junior year, when Conefrey began observing the team more closely when his role expanded from physical education teacher to the district’s athletic director.

“[Conefrey] knew there was potential there,” Confrey states, “and [he] thought ‘Wait, just wait, he’s going to do something special.”

Ochoa partially attributes his progression as an athlete and his victory as state champ to the confidence of his greatest motivators, including Confrey. “Seeing the reactions of [his] family, coaches and teammates really made all [his] hard work worthwhile,” Ochoa says.

Ochoa does club swim during the off season, puts in countless hours at the gym weekly and has been a part of high school swim for four years, and, though he describes his victory as an “unreal feeling,” he remarks that it is “just the icing on the cake.”

“Representing [his] school has always been something [he has] wanted to do,” Ochoa states, but he measures his success based on his “level of impact on the team,” not the accolades he obtains.

The week of Monday, April 1st, Ochoa will be representing MHS at the national swim competition in North Carolina. Post-graduation, he plans to continue swimming at the collegiate level. Though Ochoa has not yet decided where he will be attending in the fall, Conefrey believes that he is in a “unique and very fortunate position” where he “holds all the cards as a decorated student athlete” and “colleges would be very lucky to have him on their rosters.”

Ochoa believes he will “be a Golden Tornado forever” and wishes the best to his team in its upcoming seasons, during which underclassmen will continue to carry his legacy.

In spite of the loss the team will suffer from the departure of many talented seniors, including captains Ochoa, Sebastian Romani, Agatha Silva, Joanne Ho and Olivia Forestier, Conefrey remains unwavering in his confidence in the MHS swim team. He sees the potential to progress as far as Ochoa has in a handful of underclassmen, among them freshmen Chloe Akombi and Tony Giech, as well as sophomore David Lombardi.

Lombardi hopes that after the departure of his senior captains the team is able to “rebuild to the point that [they are] competitive while also establishing a family atmosphere that is very similar to the one [they] have had.” With the arrival of new athletic talent, he is optimistic about seasons to come and his own potential as well as the potential of his fellow teammates.

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