The Seliskar brothers -- freshman Andrew and senior Stephen -- are such fast swimmers that even the younger brother’s acceptance letter to the competitive Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology came with a trail of smoke.
A little less than a year ago, a McLean mailman, on his route in the Seliskars' neighborhood, opened up the mail slot at the family's home and a cloud of smoke came out. It turned out that their dishwasher had malfunctioned, the motor had burned out and the rest of the kitchen caught fire.
No one was home, and the fire was contained mostly to the kitchen, but if the mailman hadn’t been delivering Andrew’s good news, discovered the fire and called 9-1-1, who knows what might have happened.
While the fire displaced the family for most of the summer, it’s a story the brothers can now laugh about.
“When my mom first got there she was less concerned about the house than finding out whether he got into T.J. or not,” said Stephen, one of the top-ranked swimmers heading into this weekend’s state championship meet at George Mason.
While Andrew said he would have been happy going to McLean, since he has a lot of good friends there, he’s glad he got to spend a season as a member of the Colonials’ team with his older brother. And first-year coach Ian Handerhan has been thrilled to have them in his lineup at the same time. Not only because they have some of the fastest times in the state this year in events like the 200-yard IM and 100-butterfly (Andrew) and the 100-yard backstroke and 50-freestyle (Stephen), but also because the brothers are motivated and easy to coach.
“I was expecting a little more push-back in terms of the lengths of practice or sets given, but Stephen gets in, does what you tell him to do,” said Handerhan. “And he’s always open to new advice.”
The brothers are also key members of the two Jefferson relays that are ranked No. 2 in the state – the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay – which has motivated them to try to lift the Colonials to upset wins over Frank W. Cox High School of Virginia Beach.
“We’d like to grab those,” said Handerhan. “It would be a lot of fun.”
The other members of the relays are Reese Frerichs and Miles Oakley in the 200-IM, and in the 200-freestyle, it’s Oakley and Nathan Hughes who complement the Seliskars. The Jefferson swimmers are less than a tenth of a second slower than the Cox swimmers in each event heading into the meet.
“It’s going to come down to who has the better relay start or who has the better turn,” Stephen said.
Being on the same relay team has helped to calm whatever sibling rivalry might have existed between the two brothers, who do not have any other siblings.
“We want to try to build each other up and go faster because we’re teammates,” Andrew said.
“There’s pressure to go faster [for the team],” Stephen said, noting the brothers do display their medals on hooks in the wall at home. “But I don’t think we keep track of who’s faster in one event.”
Stephen hasn’t won an individual state title in his four-year career at Jefferson, so he said it would be great to see the relays, himself and his brother win some more medals this weekend, and add some more hardware to their home display.
“I’m hoping to win the 100-backstroke, and I’m doing the 50-freestyle. I know Andrew’s looking strong in his events as well," he said.
Coming home Saturday night with a state championship or two will solidify what Seliskar said has been a great experience swimming for his high school team. He'll be leaving for Indiana at the end of the summer where he'll be a member of the Purdue University team.
When asked to name three things he has learned this season from his brother, Andrew mentioned Stephen's technique on turns and starts, his competitiveness and ability to swim large segments of his races underwater.
But, the younger brother has acquitted himself well in his first varsity swimming season.
"I’d say I’m surprised [with my success]. I dropped a lot of time this year in club swimming. But I dind’t really expect to keep dropping time at these high school meets," Andrew said. "I ended up going a lot faster because of all the competition."
While this will be his last meet under the Jefferson banner, Stephen hopes some of his legacy can remain once he graduates.
"I hope they have a competitive attitude, and remember high school swimming is a lot of fun," he said. "We don’t get a lot of it in club swimming. You have to be focused all the time, there’s no fooling around."