New pools, similar results for Army cadet
Stars and Stripes March 9, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany — Former European Forces Swim League standout Will Viana just wrapped up his freshman year of college swimming by proving he can make waves at the Division I level as well.
Viana, who holds 22 EFSL records from his time with the Stuttgart Piranhas, continued his record-setting ways this year for the Army Black Knights. He broke the school record in the 200-yard backstroke and tied a West Point freshman record in the 200-yard butterfly.
The 20-year-old Patch High School graduate and salutatorian first put his name in the academy books in December with a 1 minute 49.83 second swim in the 200 backstroke at the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio, breaking the previous record set in 1992.
Viana recalled his team greeting him after the race by joking with him: “You beat (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur, you beat (Gen. George S.) Patton,” conjuring up legendary figures from the hallowed halls of West Point.
For Viana, those joking words opened his eyes.
“That’s when it hit me what it meant,” Viana said.
He’s not the first in the family to join the West Point record books. His maternal grandfather, Richard Stephenson, a 1957 United States Military Academy graduate, still holds a share of an Army football record with three touchdown receptions in a game.
Viana’s father, Al, a West Point graduate, and mother Tracy, still reside in Stuttgart.
At the 2012 Patriot League Championships last month, held on the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy, he tied his own 200 backstroke record.
Proving he’s no one-stroke wonder, he gave strong performances in the 200 and 500 freestyle events at the meet, clocking personal bests in both. He was also a member of the Army’s bronze medal 400 freestyle relay team.
The performance was enough to earn Viana the title of Patriot League Rookie of the Meet, which is effectively rookie of the year, since no separate winner is named. The Black Knights announce their freshman swimmer of the year at the end of March.
During the Army’s last meet of the year, the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships, Viana tied a 16-year-old plebe record in the 200 butterfly, with a time of 1:49.19.
Despite his success in the pool and in the classroom, where he holds a 3.5 grade point average, Viana said his first priority is his faith.
“Will’s an extraordinary young man; the way he lives his life and the success he’s had at the academy really transcends the swimming pool,” said Army head coach Mickey Wender, who hopes he’ll see Viana eventually qualify for the NCAA championships.
Viana, who dominated the EFSL in distances ranging from 50 to 1,500 meters, said he’s had to make some adjustments to swim at the next level.
“College is a different emphasis, it’s all about getting points on the wall,” Viana said.
Wender, who has also put on summer swim camps for EFSL youth at Naval Station Rota, said Viana had no problems with the adjustment
“It took no convincing whatsoever to tell him that’s where our team needs him the most,” Wender said. “He understands selfless service.”
While other college swimmers may look on at the Black Knights with curiosity as the team stands in formation during the national anthem, sings the Army song before the competition and arrive and depart meets in dress grey uniforms, Viana said they’re really no different.
“We’re just college kids that are willing to serve,” Viana said.