Athlete of the Issue: Ryan Durkan ‘21

Durkan discusses how he started swimming, why he came to Malvern and his commitment to Army.

Chris Ayres, Sport Editor

Durkan tried out different sports as a kid before starting his swimming career.

“I kind of bounced around all sorts of sports when I was younger,” said Durkan. “It wasn’t until I was 10 that I got into swimming and for most swimmers, that is really really late.”

He met Malvern swimming and Water Polo Head Coach Mr. Jay Schiller, who began teaching about competitive swimming.

“I started my country club Chester Valley and Mr. Schiller was the head coach there,” Durkan stated. “He really taught me how to race, and immediately loved it right off the bat and I’ve been sticking with it ever since.”

Durkan transferred to Malvern during freshman year and said Coach Schiller’s dedication was a big reason for the switch.

“He was a huge factor in that and it was originally supposed to retire last year,” said Durkan. “It was kind of a big deal for me at least, knowing that he’s sticking it out another year so that I’ll be able to graduate with him as my coach.”

Like all winter sports this season, Malvern’s swim team has practiced intermittently due to COVID restrictions.

“We had a little stint where we started in late November, but then sports got shut down,” said Durkan. “We were able to start back up last week.”

The swim team is still looking forward to competing this year despite not being able to have as many meets as usual.

“We have three meets scheduled. We have one with Episcopal, Haverford, and then we have one kind of like just inner squad on the night that we take like the team photos,” Durkan stated. “Then we normally have one end of season meet we go to, usually at Franklin and Marshall, and we have this big meet called Easterns with basically all the private schools on like the East Coast, but we can’t do that this year.”  

Durkan is committed to Army West Point to continue his swimming career and says his recruiting process took a long time.

“The recruiting process was really slow and it was really difficult because with swimming it’s all about your times. You’re either something a school wants or you’re not and they kind of let you know that right off the bat,” said Durkan. “I figured there were more schools to choose from the faster I swam, so that thought process started a little less than two years ago. I didn’t really get into talking with Army until probably two summers ago when we first started conversations.” 

Durkan said Army’s coaching staff and school atmosphere were two of the biggest draws to the school for him.

“I just really had a great connection with their coaches. I really liked their staff and I’ve just started to get to know the swimmers that are gonna be there with me and it just seems like a great atmosphere,” said Durkan. “I mean I know the school environment as far as everyday living is going to be tough because they’re gonna push you every day but I ultimately decided that’s the environment that I’m going to thrive in.”

Applications to military academies are a lot of work, and Durkan discussed some of the requirements he has completed. 

“I’m pretty much done, just waiting for my recommendation from our Representative, Congresswoman Benham. The entire process is just grueling because it’s taking a lot of time,” Durkan stated. “There’s a lot of forms you have to fill out, you have to go through a lot medically, you have to pass things physically, and then you have to have interviews with senators and it’s terrifying. It kind of sets you up for how you’re going to have to really be able to manage things when you get there.”

Because of his commitment, Durkan is excited to be able to race without the pressure of being recruited.

“I’m really looking forward to just kind of being able to enjoy things as they’re kind of less serious. Of course I still take my training seriously and I still race seriously but it’s gonna be kind of nice to like to know that like I can just like have fun with friends and like it won’t be as much pressure if I have a bad race or something,” said Durkan “I’m just going to try to enjoy it and then looking forward to college, I’m kind of looking forward to the opposite of the pressure and the intensity at Army that’s really going to help me to to grow.”

Durkan is already a school record holder, but is looking to accomplish even more this season.

“For Malvern, I broke one of their records last year and the 100 breast and I beat that time outside of school, so I want to get back in so that I can get it with Malvern,” said Durkan. “I want to get a record in more events this year. We have a great team and I hope people will come and watch our races.”