Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week: Lin a student of the game

Tyler Lin does not just pursue perfection in the pool. In a way, he is the definition of a scholar-athlete.

The Corona del Mar High junior said he has gotten straight A's throughout high school, and middle school for that matter. He had a 4.6 grade-point average last semester.

A day after the CIF Southern Section Division 1 swimming finals concluded, Lin and his father, Steven, took a red-eye flight to the East Coast. It's not surprising that Tyler spent much of this week taking unofficial visits to universities like Penn, Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Brown.

But Tyler Lin also plays it smart. He said his courseload could be more challenging, though he is taking Advanced Placement Psychology and Biology plus honors classes in U.S. History and English.

"I know I don't take the hardest courses," Lin said. "There's plenty of people out there that are taking a way harder courseload, but not many of them do a sport at my level."

As a dedicated club swimmer for Aquazot Swim Club, Lin has to know about time management. All you have to know about the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week's time in the 100-yard breaststroke is that they keep getting faster and faster.

Lin won the event on May 17 at the Division 1 finals, lowering his own school record by touching in 55.53 seconds. He also finished fourth in the 200 individual medley and was on two relays that also raced in the finals, helping the Sea Kings finish fifth as a team.

The time in the breaststroke was nearly a second drop from last year, when Lin finished third in the event at CIF. Yet, he expressed disappointment after the race ended. He wanted to go a 54.

"It was really great to win," Lin said. "I was just bummed because the entire season leading to CIF, every day in practice, that was the goal. That was what got me through a lot of the sets. I was just focusing on that goal and trying to get there. After a lot of months of training, it's kind of disappointing. But my [club] coach [Brian Pajer] told me, 'A drop's a drop,' so I guess I have to take it. Slowly but steadily. He was kind of saying it sarcastically, because he also wanted me to go a 54, but he was just trying to cheer me up."

Lin, who stands a lanky 6-foot-4, knows he has another year of high school to go faster. He said his goal next year is to challenge the Division 1 meet record, which is a 54.15 by John Criste of Mission Viejo from 2007.

It doesn't take a sense of humor to believe that Lin could improve that much. But Lin does have one. At the Pacific Coast League finals, he showed it, along with CdM senior Liam Karas. They had fun with the guys from league champion University High, many of whom also swim club for Aquazots. Lin and Karas crashed the Trojans' team picture after the meet, until someone finally figured them out.

"We turned our shirts backward," said Lin, laughing. "Our shirts kind of matched their polos, it's dark blue. What we did last year was that we put the No. 2 up in their [team] picture, because CdM got second. They were all holding up No. 1, and Liam had like No. 2 up. It was hilarious. We all know each other because we all go to AZot, and high school's a more relaxed, laid back thing. We were just having fun."

Yet, Lin knows how to perform when it's time. He never lost an individual race all year for the Sea Kings. And his performances have been big throughout his time at the school as well.

Two years ago, Lin was on the CdM 200 medley relay team with Jared Namba, Christian Garkani and Blake Motal. The quartet set the then-meet and Orange County record at CIF, finishing in 1:32.88. The previous record was set by San Marino in 1991.

"It was a ton of pressure, because I was the freshman and I was the slowest one by far," Lin said.

Lin also stepped up individually that year. He finished 13th in the breaststroke, which was key as CdM placed second as a team.

"After prelims, I was seeded 20th," Lin said. "I had just made the cut. [CdM Coach] Barry [O'Dea] was telling me that all I had to do was get 17th or something, and we'd be in position to get second [as a team]. I got 13th, and he was really excited. He always tells that story."

Lin also was seeded sixth going into finals last year in the breaststroke before taking third. Now, he'll soon be a senior at CdM. He looks with pride at his freshman sister Nicole, who made the consolation finals in the breaststroke and 50 freestyle and was on the girls' medley relay team that set the school record.

As for Tyler, he'll continue giving his all both in the pool and out. He certainly has come a long way.

"I think I have a ribbon from one of my first meets where I went a 1:07 in the 50 breaststroke," Lin said. "I wore, like, board shorts and I didn't even know how to dive. It was great. Now I'm going like 10 seconds faster in the 100."

Tyler Lin

Born: March 15, 1997

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 170 pounds

Sport: Swimming

Year: Junior

Coach: Barry O'Dea

Favorite food: Cheeseburger and fries

Favorite movie: "The Matrix" trilogy

Favorite athletic moment: Being on the Aquazots 13- and 14-year-old medley relay team that broke the national age-group record in December, 2011.

Week in review: Lin won the 100-yard breaststroke at the CIF Southern Section Division 1 swimming finals in a school-record 55.53 seconds. He also was fourth in the 200 individual medley, as well as on the fourth-place 200 medley relay team and seventh-place 400 free relay team.

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