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The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

Matthew Vatev: Top ranked swimmer prepares for state meet

Matthew Vatev, sophomore varsity swimmer, trains to swim in the Illinois state meet coming up in February.
Kailee Tu
To start the Hinsdale Central’s Swim and Dive season, Matthew Vatev, sophomore (left), and Jeffrey Hou, senior (right), dive into the pool during the Red vs. White intersquad meet on Nov. 25. The intersquad meet was the last part of the tryout process where the swimmers split up into two teams and competed against one another.

After training for months to hear his name announced for the varsity swim team, Matthew Vatev, freshman at the time, was excited for this day to arrive. Months and months of lifting, healthy eating, and, of course, swimming, were all done to prepare for this moment.

Although most swimmers found out which group they had made during the first meet of the season, Vatev was in a different situation; he was at home sick with the flu. 

He opened his phone and saw that he was added to the varsity swimming group chat, signaling that his hard work had paid off, the excitement running through his veins.

He had made it. 

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“I was excited [to make the varsity team as a freshman] because it would be the first time that I got to train and race guys who were a lot faster than me,” Vatev said.

Last year, he was one of only four freshmen to make Central’s varsity team. This year, Vatev has gained a year of experience, and as a sophomore, he is focused on preparing for the IHSA State Meet in February. Even though the state meet is months away in February, he says that it’s better to prepare earlier, rather than later. Currently, he is ranked first in Illinois and 45th in the world for the class of 2026.

Although he didn’t get the opportunity to swim at the state meet his freshman year, his main goal for this season is to improve his swimming technique and mechanics, as well as partake in high-level meets.

“My goal would be making the sectional lineup, qualifying for state, and placing in the top 8,” Vatev said.

Vatev has swam for 13 years, his love for the sport starting at three years old when his parents put him into beginner lessons at a local YMCA.

“They put me in swim lessons because we have a lake house and they didn’t want me to drown,” Vatev said.

During these beginner lessons, instructors taught him how to do basic swimming skills, such as floating. Eventually, his parents enrolled him at Hornets Swim Club in Darien at six years old. By doing so, he has been able to advance his skills even further.

Since he has joined Hornets Swim Club, Vatev has competed in numerous high-level swim meets, including NCSA (National Club Swimming Association) meets, as well as Speedo Junior Nationals. 

In 2018, he won first place in the 100 yard freestyle and the 100 yard individual medley at Age Group Nationals for the 10 and under age group. 

Additionally, he holds the Illinois Swimming State Record in the 50 meter breaststroke in the 13-14 age group. Last year, he swam a qualifying time in the 100 yard breaststroke which gave him the opportunity to swim at the Speedo Junior Nationals this December. 

Lately, he has been devoted to showing up to practice every day, working hard, lifting, practicing injury prevention, eating right, sleeping and staying on task in class. 

Although the season started only a few weeks ago, Vatev has already shown his strong work ethic and willingness to get better. 

“He does every single thing that’s asked of him,” said varsity swim coach, Robert Barber. “You can see when he gets frustrated and he’ll stay longer to try and fix it.”

As of right now, Vatev’s main focus is to excel at the state meet in February. One that he says he hopes to achieve through dedication and determination.  

“I’m excited to swim in the state meet because the energy there is just on another level,” Vatev said. “I’ve swam at other national-level meets that were both nerve-racking and exciting and I think the state meet is on par with those.”

To keep up with the boys swim team, click here.

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