Evan Dash used to be afraid of the water.
Up until just a few years ago, Dash — who turns 13 years old on Saturday — wouldn’t let his head go under. But swimming lessons and his older brother, Trevor, changed all of that.
Evan isn’t afraid of the water any more.
“He had an extreme fear of the water when he was little,” their mother Nissa Dash said. “We ended up getting him private lessons and that really helped.
“And when he saw Trevor join the Killer Whales (swimming club), it became something that was a goal of his, and he was able to get over his fears and get fast enough. That’s been really fun to watch.”
And has it ever, as just four years removed from those days of being anxious around water, Evan now freely jumps in the pool, and splashes around, getting his head wet.
But the red-haired kid does more than that.
He thrives in the water. It’s all he thinks about.
At 13 years old, swimming is life.
“He has a pretty rigid regime at home that he made himself,” Nissa said. “… He has certain nutritional things that he does. It’s just who he is. He has his little check list in his mind.”
And at the top of that check list is breaking as many Ketchikan Killer Whales’ team records as possible.
Evan has certainly done that this past month, closing 2020 with a flurry of new team records.
In his final two swim meets of his pre-teen years, Evan broke eight 11- to 12-year-old age group club records, giving him 11 records in the age bracket.
He holds a 12th team record in the boys’ 9- to 10-year-old age group — the 100-yard butterfly, which he set in 2018.
But in the two years that Evan’s spent swimming in the 11- to 12-year-old age group, he’s nearly swept the chart clean.
Evan holds team records for the 50-yard freestyle, as well as the 100-yard, 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle for 11- to 12-year-olds; the 50-yard breaststroke, and the 50-yard butterfly and 100-yard butterfly.
He has all of the backstrokes — 50-yard, 100-yard and 200-yard. And even the 100-yard individual medley, which is an assortment of all four strokes.
Of course, some of those were his brother’s old records.
Trevor, who is 14, had nine 11- to 12-year-old age group records for the club before this season began. Evan passed four of those.
Together, the Dash brothers own 16 of the 18 individual team records in the age bracket.
“I remember when there were times when he wasn’t even able to put his head in the water,” Trevor said. “So he’s come a long way, and it’s really cool to see that.”
Record breaking performance
A few days before the virtual Mike Smithers Invitational meet on Dec. 12, Killer Whales’ head coach Gary Crowe and Evan were looking at the team record board that hangs inside the Gateway Aquatic Center.
“‘Which one do you think you can break?’” Crowe asked Evan.
Evan rattled off several.
“He named them off. ‘What about the 100-free? What about the 200-free?’ Crowe said of Evan’s response.
‘I don’t know that’s pretty hard. (They’re) pretty fast,’ Crowe said. ‘You got to work at it.’
“And then he broke both of them,” Crowe continued as he laughed. “And it’s like, ‘OK.’”
Evan broke six records that day.
One by one, Gabe Bowlen’s 50-yard freestyle (2013), Jason Leask’s 100-yard freestyle (1991) and Levi Buker’s 200-yard freestyle (2016) records were broken.
Evan also eclipsed Trevor’s 50-yard butterfly and 200-yard backstroke (2019), and a 34-year-old record set by Randy Taylor in 1986 — the 50-yard breaststroke.
“It was quite an impressive weekend for Evan,” Crowe said of the Mike Smithers Invitational in December. “Almost every swim was a record.”
And that was just the beginning.
Evan surpassed two more records during a team time trial on Dec. 19 — the 100-yard butterfly, set by Buker in 2016, and Jorden Davis’ 500-yard freestyle record set in 2010.
He also nearly broke a third record during the trial, missing Taylor’s 34-year-old 100-yard breaststroke record by hundreths of a second.
“Ever since I got the 100-fly record for 10-and-under (in 2018), I’ve wanted to get more than my brother," Evan said. ”I know the times going into it, so I know how to pace myself for the event.”
But Evan’s preparation begins at home.
Through no coaxing from Nissa, or her husband, Mark, Evan has grown into the sport, and they’ve had to put a home gym together for him.
“He swims every day, except for Saturdays and Sundays,” Mark said. “But for the most part, it’s school, swimming, come home, and then he does a work out — pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and squat jumps, and all kinds of stuff.”
Added Nissa: “There was one night where we were like, ‘What are you doing?’ she said. “And he was like, ‘I did 250 squats, mom.’”
It’s that inner drive that comes naturally to Evan.
“He’s been digging deep, trying to really get prepped for (these meets),” Nissa said. “It’s fortunate that he can do that — dig deep inside, and find the motivation. He doesn’t need the external motivation. Whereas, with a lot of swimmers, without the competition in the lane next to them, it’s really hard. It’s a mind game, you know?”
It’s that mind game of chasing his brother — and that record board.
“For a while, he’s been eyeing that board thinking, ‘I wonder if I could,’” Nissa said. “And so it’s been pretty fun to watch.
“(Evan’s) able to look up to Trevor, and see it is possible. Trevor did some (record breaking) at that age, too,” she continued. “They’re encouraging to each other.”
Bumping up brackets
Trevor’s 1,000-yard freestyle and mile-freestyle record times remained safe in the 11- to 12-year-old bracket. But Evan eclipsed all three of Trevor’s backstroke times, as well as the 50-yard butterfly record during his time in that age group.
Trevor also kept his 200-yard breaststroke record, as well as the 200-yard and 400-yard IM times from his days in the age group.
“When he starts swimming faster, I swim faster, and try to keep up with him as best I can,” Evan said.
And it’s the Dash tandem that has Crowe looking forward to the next few months, while both brothers are in the 13- to 14-year-old age group.
Evan will start fresh in 2021 bumping up to the new age bracket, and Trevor turns 15 in May, giving Crowe a few months with the two swimming together.
And the Killer Whales’ relay teams until then should be pretty ‘killer’ with both Evan and Trevor competing.
“It’s going to be pretty fun,” Trevor said with a slight grin. “We’re going to try to get those relay records, too.”
Evan Dash’s eight new records
50-yard freestyle: 25.12 (25.31)
100-yard freestyle: 54.56 (56.46)
200-yard freestyle: 2:00.60 (2:03.10)
500-yard freestyle: 5:31.14 (5:40.20)
50-yard breaststroke: 32.07 (32.12)
50-yard butterfly: 27.10 (27.78)
100-yard butterfly: 59.49 (1:00.80)
200-yard backstroke: 2:13.69 (2:23.58)
*Parentheses denote previous record.