By ELISABETH DELLAROVA
Brothers Jeffrey and Thomas Leckrone were never close in high school. However, since becoming teammates on UMW’s swim team, they’ve become each other’s biggest supporters.
“This year, especially with a new school and new team, I have been really fortunate to have my brother there. He helps with the anxiety a lot more than he knows just by being there,” said Thomas, a freshman, and intended sociology major.
Throughout his swimming career, Thomas has battled intense nerves before and after he starts a race.
“I have a history of depression and anxiety. When I get really stressed and anxious that causes me to stop breathing in the water. When I’m swimming and stop breathing, I start to panic. My whole body shuts down and the only thing I can think about is getting air. I start gasping for air, but my body doesn’t allow me to take any in, forcing me to stop,” said Thomas.
Jeffrey, a senior business administration major, is thankful for the opportunity to encourage his younger brother.
“Nerves are a part of the sport and everyone handles them differently. Thomas is strong, and I know he won’t let them get in the way of him achieving what he wants to during his time here on this team,” said Jeffrey.
In addition to encouraging each other, however, the Leckrones are also extremely competitive.
“Jeffrey and I are pretty competitive when it comes to certain things, such as the 100 fly,” said Thomas. “I’m hyper competitive so I don’t lose well to anyone, and that’s especially true of my little brother. I want him to be the best he can be, but while I still have eligibility I’m going to do everything I can to beat him,” said Jeffrey.
Being on the same team has given them the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences.
Though they are both lifelong swimmers, the brothers were only on the same team for a year in high school. But they weren’t very close then or after Jeffrey left for college. Jeffrey chose UMW before he even committed to swim here.
“Swimming and athletics was more of an after-thought in my decision, I only filled out recruiting paperwork after I had decided to attend the university,” said Jeffrey.
Thomas’s college decision was strongly affected by the fact that Jeffrey already attended UMW.
“Jeffrey being here helped me in my choice. I’ve always wanted to get closer to him, but have never been able to. I liked the school a lot and it gave me everything I wanted, so I chose UMW,” said Thomas.
So far the transition to being teammates has been great for the Leckrones. “I’d say we’ve gotten a lot closer in the past couple months,” said Jeffrey. Thomas agreed: “I do really like having Jeffrey around. He’s the one person on the team that I feel like I can really talk to.”
What is next for the Leckrones? Jeffrey is graduating in the spring with his business degree and looking for a job in project management. In the meantime, he is grateful for his experience swimming here and is excited for one more season.
“My experience swimming for UMW is something I never could have imagined. My teammates are my best friends, they make the monotonous grind fun and different every day,” said Jeffrey.
The team has two mid-season invitationals, as well as conferences, over the next couple of months. Jeffrey hopes UMW will be able to send a team to the Division III National Championships in March.
“After that, who knows. I’m going to graduate and Thomas is going to continue to develop as a person and a fantastic swimmer for the university,” said Jeffrey.
Thomas is hopeful that he and Jeffrey can be on a relay team together at Nationals. That would be their last time competing together.
“After [the season], I have three more years of getting up early and working hard to get better every day,” said Thomas. He intends to keep working on overcoming his anxiety. “As Jeff always says, ‘it’s all in the cranium.’ I may have a hard time with anxiety, but at the end of the day I really just want to do my best and do my best by others, especially for my team. I don’t intend on letting anything get in the way of that.”