Oct. 21, 2009
Thomas Recko is a senior from Wakefield, MA and a member of the Clemson swimming & diving team. He is currently the school recordholder in both the 100 and 200 backstroke and was a member of the record-setting 400 medley relay team. He has had a very successful career with the Tigers, but he was not originally supposed to be here.
Recko has always been involved in sports. During one summer, his parents decided to enroll him in the swim program at the local YMCA, although he only made the team because there was a shortage of guys. He worked hard and found that swimming was something in which he could excel. As he became old enough to start applying for college, he filled out a Clemson recruiting questionnaire. But at the time, Clemson did not pursue him. He went on to sign with Rutgers, however that did not work out as planned.
“I had my classes and roommate and everything at Rutgers, and then two weeks before school started they eliminated their swimming program,” recalled Recko. “I was going to take a year off, but that summer I had gone to the YMCA Nationals and won the 200 backstroke, so I tried Clemson again and Head Coach Chris Ip said `we will have you down here in two weeks.’ I came down here with my fingers crossed hoping this would work out.”
There is no denying that it has worked out for Recko and Clemson’s swimming & diving program. From the moment Recko stepped foot on Clemson’s campus, he has been determined to be successful.
As a freshman, he posted the fifth-fastest time in Clemson history in the 200 backstroke at the ACC Championships. Then in his sophomore season, he won the 200 backstroke at four different meets, including the team’s upset victory over #25 Florida State. At the ACC Championships, he posted his career best in the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:45.05 to move up to second in Tiger history. He had also moved into the top 10 in the 100 backstroke with a time of 49.80.
His sophomore season was special for another reason. During the Georgia Tech Long Course Invite on March 2, Recko qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials in the 200 backstroke.
“That experience was absolutely amazing,” said Recko. “It was one of those events that you will never forget…the grandeur of everything being so big. I stayed here so I could train all summer and then flew down there. It was so overwhelming from the moment you walk into the door, just to be there and be with all of those fast swimmers and people I look up to. One day when I was warming up, I was getting ready to change my warmups and Aaron Peirsol was right next to me. He is one of the guys that I look up to and there he was. To be there and be on the same stage as those athletes was incredible.”
When Recko returned to Clemson for his junior year, he had already accomplished a lot, but he was not done. As a team co-captain, he won the 200 backstroke in five of the team’s meets. Then at the ACC Championships, he achieved something he had wanted since coming to Clemson as a freshman.
Recko finished second at the ACC Championships with a time of 1:43.01 that put him first on Clemson’s all-time list. Recko also set the school record in the 100 backstroke as the leadoff in the 400 medley relay, a group that would also finish first in Tiger history.
“I remember back during my freshman year telling Coach Ip that I wanted both of those records,” stated Recko. “I saw Michelle Parkhurst putting her name up there for another record and I wanted to do that by the end of my senior year. At that point, I had no idea I would have accomplished it already.
“So being able to do that is a huge deal for me. I wanted the 200 more than anything. I didn’t expect the 100 to even come close for me this past year, but with the coaching staff and how we train and how they push us, I was able to achieve it. It feels great to have my name there in Clemson’s recordbook. I have been very lucky and blessed.”
Recko has had an extremely successful career at Clemson and will look to continue his success during his senior season.
“My biggest accomplishment this season would actually be winning an ACC Championship,” he admitted. “Last year, I finished second. I would also like to make the NCAAs after being just 0.09 seconds from a B-cut time, which provisionally qualifies you for the NCAA Championships. Also, there are the team goals of having a winning season again and improving our standing in the ACC.”
Along with Recko’s accomplishments in the pool this season, he also wants to finish his senior year strong academically by earning his degree in health science and then go to medical school.
With all of his accomplishments in Tigertown, Recko has proven that Clemson is exactly where he is supposed to be.
Kristin Watkins, a first-year graduate student from Pendleton, SC, is a graduate assistant in the Clemson Sports Information Office.
November 16, 2018