It's not like Christian Feiler was splashing around in a vain attempt to stay afloat during his first three seasons with the Boulder High boys swim team.
Far from it.
His early collection of top-eight finishes at state aside, however, both Feiler and Panthers coach Curt Colby realized there was a higher ceiling available for Feiler. At least with the proper focus and attention to detail.
Yet that sort of focus meant the all-around athlete inside Feiler would have to give up some of his other pursuits — specifically his passion for basketball. It was roughly a year ago when Feiler sat down with recently-resigned Boulder basketball coach Eric Eisenhard to deliver the bad news that he was making a permanent exchange of his high-top gym shoes for Speedos and goggles.
"I started talking to coach Eisenhard about the decision I was going to have to make," Feiler said. "Once I settled that I really had to do swimming, we tried to put a schedule together where I could keep doing both. But we just couldn't make it work.
"It was a super-hard decision, but I think it paid off. Even just last year, I was only training for maybe two and a half months before state. This year I felt like I was in the best shape of my life."
Feiler showed as much at the Air Force Academy pool earlier this month at the Class 5A state finals, leaving his final prep meet with a handful of school records and the first individual state title for a boys swimmer in Colby's 17 seasons as the Panthers' head coach.
After his stellar finish to a standout career, Feiler has been named the 2015 BoCoPreps.com boys Swimmer of the Year.
"Basically, he's worked his way up gradually," Colby said. "Some kids push themselves too hard too soon and they burn out. He's always been good about measuring himself, but this year he really dedicated himself to strength training and improving underwater and with his kicks. I think that has all really taken him to the next level."
Indeed it has been a gradual ascension for Feiler, who recorded a pair of consolation-round finishes at state as a freshman (10th in the 50 free, 14th in the backstroke) before reaching the top-eight in those events as a sophomore.
Feiler made an even bigger jump as a junior last year, placing fourth in the 50 free, sixth in the backstroke, and helping the Panthers to a second-place finish in the medley relay and a tie for sixth in the team standings. His increased focus on his craft led to this year's title in the 50 free, in addition to a title in the medley relay and a second-place finish in the 100 free.
The individual title was particularly gratifying for Feiler to deliver to Colby, who has been mentoring Feiler for more than a decade.
"He's been my coach since I was about eight, so to be his first state champion is pretty cool," Feiler said.
Feiler's increased dedication to swimming also has led to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the swim program this fall at Princeton. He expects to remain a sprint freestyle specialist while dabbling in the backstroke, and Colby believes Feiler's somewhat late push in the sport will continue to pay dividends at the next level.
"To get first (at state) takes a lot. There's so much that can happen," Colby said. "I've worked with him since he was a boy and he's always been a champ, always been a leader. I think he's really poised to do well in college. He's not burned out at all and is really focused on taking that next step."