Heritage junior swimmer Bryan Durazo hasn't been the same since injuring his right shoulder 2 years ago.
He's been better.
In between his eighth- and ninth-grade years, Durazo developed tendinitis in his shoulder. Because of the injury, Durazo was able to perform only the breaststroke -- his least favorite event.
"It was my worst stroke," Durazo said. "But after the injury, I couldn't do anything but breaststroke for three months straight."
During that time, Durazo honed his technique under the watchful eye of Mike Pliuskaitis, his stepfather and the head coach of his club team, Snowbird Aquatics.
"He's a really good breaststroke coach," Durazo said. "I learned pretty fast, and I got really good."
Just how good was on display at George Mason University Jan. 28 during the Dulles District meet. Durazo won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1 minute 1.4 seconds -- more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Spencer Butt of Potomac Falls and more than seven seconds ahead of any other swimmer.
"I had seen him swim in dual meets, but I'd never seen him swim in bigger meets," Heritage Coach Amy Oldknow said. "He went out, and everyone was even for the first half of the first lap, but then he just blew everybody away."
Durazo also won the 100 butterfly in a Dulles District record time of 54.06 seconds. His time shattered the previous record of 58.84 and gave him the victory by more than six seconds.
"You think that's not much, but in swimming, it's a lot," Oldknow said.
Durazo's natural talent is a major reason he has become one of the Washington area's premier swimmers. But his coaches said his work ethic and meticulous practice habits are just as important.
"I think it's his ability to concentrate and make corrections on stroke mechanics," Pliuskaitis said. "He's almost become a student of the sport. He really knows what's going on, and he's committed."
That is especially important since Durazo competes in two events -- the breaststroke and butterfly -- that demand quality technique.
"I've been with Coach Mike for eight years, and he's always said I've been a good listener," Durazo said. "I guess I was just listening when he was telling me how to do things. I learned from everything I did, and if I did something wrong, I would realize it and try to fix it."
This is Durazo's second season with the Pride. After swimming on the team as a freshman, he did not compete last season because he was trying to qualify for junior nationals and because the Pride's practices conflicted with those of his club team.
But Durazo said he has thoroughly enjoyed competing again for his high school.
"When I was a freshman, there were like 15 people on the team," he said. "Now that the school's grown, the team's grown, too. I wanted to give it another shot . . . I'm very glad I did it."
The Pride feels the same. In addition to getting a standout talent, Oldknow said Durazo has been a tremendous influence on the rest of her swimmers.
"The kids see how hard he practices," Oldknow said. "Never once has he said, 'I'm tired from club practice, I'm sore. Can I take it easy?' . . . He's never condescending toward the other kids, never has had an attitude of 'I'm better than you.' He's just a great all-around kid."