Frank Uxa admits he was a bundle of nerves at the Southern Section Division I swimming finals last month. He remembers his doubts and concerns before the start of his two individual events at Long Beach Belmont Plaza Pool.
"I knew the guys I would be swimming against. I have competed against them at one time or another, and I knew how well they swim. So I was a bit nervous before I swam," Uxa said.
But any feelings of self-doubt were left at the starting block as Uxa, a 6-foot-4 Santa Margarita senior, proved who was the top dog that day in May.
Uxa, The Times Orange County boys' swimmer of the year, easily won the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke. His time of 1 minute 51.58 seconds in the 200 IM was the fastest by any section swimmer this season. He won the 100 back in 51.85. Uxa was also a member of the winning 200 freestyle relay team.
Uxa didn't save his best for the finals. He had occupied a top-three spot in six of the eight individual events at some point during the season.
Uxa's victories were crucial to his team's success. The Eagles finished second at the Sea View League finals and third at at the section finals.
"Frank doesn't fit the usual club swimmer mold," Santa Margarita Coach Bill Rowland said. "Oh, he still worked out with his club [Mission Viejo], during the season, but he competed at every dual meet during the season. And that's something you don't see too often in club swimmers. He didn't have to, but he wanted to."
Uxa learned from the example set by former teammate Philippe Demers, The Times Orange County swimmer of the year last season.
"I learned a lot from Philippe," Uxa said. "He showed me that your senior year should be fun. He taught me how to stay relaxed and not let the pressure get to you."
After his family moved from Illinois to California when he was 7, Uxa soon joined Swim America, a program sponsored by the Mission Viejo Nadadores. A year later, he became a member of the Nadadores, for whom he still competes.
Uxa, who turns 18 in November, will swim for California in the fall.
"I'm looking forward to my college years," he said. "I hope I can give them my best and help them win a title."