The 2019-20 season might go down as the best yet for Stow-Munroe Falls boys swimming.
Two Bulldogs, however, have proven to be champions even if they don’t reach the OHSAA state meet. They’ve bucked the odds and beat developmental disabilities to become full-fledged members of Stow swimming.
Andrew DeCamp, a junior, was born with autism, a disorder that impacts the nervous system. The range and severity of symptoms can vary widely. Common symptoms include difficulty with communication, difficulty with social interactions, obsessive interests and repetitive behaviors.
Bobby Curry, a freshman, was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes a distinct facial appearance, intellectual disability, developmental delays and may be associated with thyroid or heart disease.
DeCamp and Curry, however, have overcome their afflictions. Both swim mostly junior varsity events but also some varsity relays.
"Andrew’s best events are the 100-yard freestyle and 100 backstroke," Stow-Munroe Falls head coach Ryan Miller said. "This year, for the first time, we put him in the 200 freestyle, and he just did an outstanding job.
"He really blew us away with his swim and his determination to never give up. That’s why he excels so much in that 200. Being a little bit longer, it really shows his determination.
"Bobby’s best events are the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. He always has a great attitude. I was really impressed with him this season at how he approached every race – with a smile on his face before and after no matter what. If his goggles fell off, he still pushed through and never gave up."
According to Miller, both DeCamp, 17, and Curry, 14, are quite coachable.
"Both of them listen super well in practice and do a great job showing sportsmanship and cheering on teammates," he said. "At practice, they push each other. Having Bobby on the team this season really showed how much of a leader Andrew can be to him. And it really was displayed at practice. So Andrew has been an inspiration for Bobby."
"Andrew is a good kid, and he and Bobby get along really well," said Bobby’s father, Martin Curry.
"Andrew has a little bit of an edge on Bobby, but I think that comes with his experience with high school swimming," Miller said. "Being a junior, he goes into the races a little bit more aggressively. Bobby kind of needs to be pushed, needs to be cheered, and then he really picks it up and always finishes every race hard.
"I always tried to get one or both of them in the last event, the 400 freestyle relay, and make it a goal to have our whole team at the other end of the pool cheering for them. It was a really neat thing to see."
Both DeCamp’s and Curry’s favorite events are the freestyles. They also enjoys being on a team.
"It feels good to be a part of something," said DeCamp. "I enjoy being around my teammates."
"I like being with my friends," Bobby said.
Both young men, who live in Stow, participate regularly in the Special Olympics. In fact, last weekend DeCamp earned two gold medals and a bronze medal at the Ohio Special Olympics at Bowling Green State University. Curry captured a gold medal and a bronze medal.
"Andrew has won many medals in the Special Olympics since he was 11 years old," said his mother, Barbara DeCamp.
Competitive swimming is relatively new to Curry.
Andrew was not officially diagnosed with autism until he was 5 years old.
"But we knew by the time he was 18 months old that something was wrong," said Barbara DeCamp. "He started getting treatments when he was around 3 years old. He’s had speech therapy and occupational therapy."
Andrew began swimming at a young age because he liked being around water.
"We started him in swimming lessons when he was 8 years old," Barbara DeCamp said. "When he was 11, he joined the Summit County Special Olympics. The Special Olympics can be a lifelong source of social outings for him."
Karate and horseback riding are two other athletic endeavors that Andrew enjoys.
"He also bowls through United Disability Services and plays the violin in the high school string orchestra," said Barbara DeCamp. "He’s also doing a work-study program through the high school at Kent State University two days a week. Right now, he’s working in the greenhouse. He’s worked in the mailroom and the café, too."
"My favorite subjects in school are science, geometry and gym," Andrew DeCamp said.
According to his father, Bobby swam a little bit at his grandmother’s pool when he was younger, but within the last year, he really started to swim a lot. He said that his son has done very well for himself.
"Bobby was really shy at first," he said. "But just being with his peers, and with Ryan and the other coaches working extremely well with him, he’s really taken something that he just kind of did casually in swimming, and he’s really blossomed. He’s not the fastest swimmer on the team, but he loves it, and it’s something that he looks forward to doing every single day."
Bobby also plays soccer through Hudson Soccer for All. He enjoys participating in different camps at Kent State University, too, such as Lego Camp and Robotics Camp. He would like to eventually attend Kent State.
"My favorite class is Teammates," said Bobby DeCamp of a gym class in which some of his older peers volunteer.
This summer, Bobby plans to do some job shadowing with the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities.
Andrew’s mother is thankful of Miller and his staff.
"They have gone above and beyond to include and encourage Andrew and Bobby," she said. "They really provide flexibility while they still push them to be their best. We’re also blessed and thankful to have found a group of students who have been so kind. They and their parents have really welcomed and supported Andrew.
"I’d really encourage other coaches to welcome students of different abilities onto their teams and would encourage parents of students with disabilities to reach out to the coaches if their child has an interest in a sport."
Bobby’s father echoed Barbara’s words.
"The school system has been amazing for including Bobby and developing him," he said. "Ryan has been amazing. He’s done so much to help Bobby get intermixed with his peers and to become part of the community and kind of open up as a young man. We just think the world of Ryan.
"The kids on the team all encourage Bobby and Andrew not because they have to but because they want to. Ryan has created such a positive environment. It’s really great to be a part of."
"Andrew has improved so much over the three years we’ve had him. I can’t wait to see that continue his senior year," said Miller. "And, of course, I can’t wait to see Bobby develop into the student-athlete over the next three years.
"We’re really honored to have both Bobby and Andrew on our team. It really reminds the coaches of why we got started doing this. Going into my 10th year of high school coaching, it really keeps you on your toes. It’s very rewarding to see them succeed.
"The whole community cheers around Bobby and Andrew," Martin Curry said. "It’s such a wonderful thing to see."