It’s not often that a high school sports coach has to compete with the director of the school play for the attention of a star player. But when it comes to Egg Harbor Township senior Joey Tepper, his talents and interests extend well beyond the pool deck.

Glory Days Magazine’s Boys Swimmer of the Year might be one of the best freestyle swimmers in the state, but he’s also a huge part of the EHT school community through theater and various other clubs and activities. That, on top of being a very accomplished club swimmer, means Eagles swim coach Mark Jamieson had to be thankful for whatever time Tepper was able to commit to the EHT swimming program the past four years.

“He does it all. He’s in the school plays, the school musicals, he’s part of the band ensemble playing trumpet, he’s done stuff with the Boy Scouts, academically he’s a standout. He’s a well-rounded individual. He brings something to the table every day. He could have very easily blown off the high school swimming season but he stuck it out and worked for his team. He’s a person who definitely fills a room,” Jamieson said. “He’ll do mornings with us because of his academic load, but between myself and his club coach, we sit down and talk to him about balancing everything. His junior year, he put himself into a little bit of a hole because he tried to do everything, so this year we talked more about prioritizing a couple things and making sure the balance was there so he could stay healthy. It’s very easy to say yes to everybody who wants you to be there. As the swim coach, I wanted him to be at all of our meets, his club coach wants him to be at every practice, the school people want him at every play practice. It’s hard to say no when you’re passionate about everything, so we sat down with him and let him kind of create his path. He had much more of a balanced approach this year.”

“I try to do the best time management I can and get plenty of sleep. But what helps is I really enjoy everything I do,” Tepper said. “The big things are the play and the musical because they take about three hours after school each day, and about eight hours on Saturdays. I’m also involved in smaller clubs and I’m still involved in Boy Scouts. I usually don’t have a lot going on Sundays, so I can take that day and catch my breath and recuperate.”

As accomplished as he is out of the pool, Tepper is just as dynamic when he puts on his goggles and swim cap. Tepper was named second team All-State by nj.com after finishing third at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in the 500 freestyle, and he also dominated the Cape-Atlantic League while helping his Eagles make a trip to the sectional championship meet.

“You can’t coach tall. He came in at 6-foot-5, and I don’t think he’s done growing. Wherever he winds up at the next level, I think he’ll still continue to drop time and perform,” Jamieson said. “Originally, we knew he was going to be a good middle distance freestyler for us and we were hoping he’d develop into sprints, and he did. Leaving this year, he has the team record in the 200 free, the 200 IM, the 500 free, the 100 free, and he’s on all three of our relays, so he’s been a big part of everything. Having a lot of depth and talent around him helped, too. As we got to those bigger meets it all kind of came together, they helped push him. His meet against St. Augustine Prep was phenomenal and he had another great meet against Cherry Hill East. And then sticking it out after not having a great first day at the Meet of Champions, he had a great day the second day. Overall he had a lot of success this year and I’m thrilled to have a kid like him on my team.”

Jamieson said he’s continually impressed with how Tepper handles everything he has going on in his life. He’s there before school getting a workout in for the Eagles, then a full day of school followed by after-school activities and club swimming. And that’s not to mention the heavy academic work load he carries as a high honor student.

“Obviously, we knew early on that we had a talent coming with him and were just hoping he stayed at EHT. Fortunately he did. He’s a standout kid who you want on your team. He’s involved in the school, involved in all kinds of activities outside of swimming. Just did anything we required him to do. He swam all over the place for us in different meets even though he’s most at home in the 500 freestyle,” Jamieson said. “He was selected to go the (U.S. Lifesaving Association) U19 World Team and won a couple races in South Africa. It’s been a special year for him. My heart goes out to all the spring athletes because being able to see seniors like Tepper fulfill their high school careers and end on a high note was great for a kid who has worked so hard. A lot of kids, in a sport like swimming, they might be talented and can sprint a 50 free really fast, but swimming his event load and what he does outside of the high school season with his club team, and for open water, his yardage is so high. He’s in the pool every morning and does so many things that people don’t see to work on his craft. He’s been very committed, and it’s been a testament to all that hard work with how successful he is.”

“I really wanted to focus on making my sprints better because in high school swimming the relays are super important, and the longest relay is the 400 free, which is only 100 meters for each person. So, I really wanted to get better at the 100 and 50 free events,” Tepper said of his goals coming into his final season.

As good as Tepper was, the Eagles had plenty of other talent throughout the lineup and that helped Tepper feel like he didn’t have to go out there and conquer the world every meet.

“If anything, this season was better than I thought it would be. Overall, our team did very well this year. We beat some teams we hadn’t beaten in a while, and I was happy to say I didn’t lose any of my individual events until states, so that was really exciting. And it was really exciting to see this team do so well overall,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have to carry your team, or that you hold back your team, and I can honestly say neither of those happened for anybody on our team this year. We were just a really balanced, great group of kids.”

As for the future, Tepper said he’s still pondering his college choice but said he definitely wants to swim in college, and beyond. The Longport lifeguard said he hopes to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in open water swimming.

“I definitely want to swim in college, and I’m going to try to make the open water Olympics in 2024. Depending on how that goes, that will determine what happens after that,” Tepper said.

Added Jamieson, “With that being an evolving sport worldwide — and that being a sport that doesn’t necessarily have the same timeline as pool swimming — I’d hope to see him continue his passion for open water and push for his dream to represent his country on the national team.”

Here’s a look at the Glory Days Magazine Boys Swimming All-Stars for the 2019-2020 season:

Joey Tepper, Egg Harbor Township: Glory Days Magazine Boys Swimmer of the Year.

Brandon Bell, Egg Harbor Township: Bell might have been overshadowed a bit by Tepper, but he had a tremendous season as well. He took fourth in the 100 backstroke at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions and also was the Cape-Atlantic League champ in that event while also finishing second in the 100 butterfly.

A.J. Mallari, Egg Harbor Township: He won a league title in the 100 breaststroke and took third in that event at the coaches meet while leading the Eagles to one of their best seasons ever.

Winchester Ployratana, Egg Harbor Township: Teamed up with Tepper, Bell and Mallari to form one of the top 200 medley relay teams in South Jersey, setting a school record in the event, and also took 16th in the state in the 100 freestyle.

Jack Levari, St. Augustine Prep: An MOC qualifier in the 200 freestyle, he took 16th in the state and also won all four races he entered in the Hermits’s state championship meet loss to CBA.

Shane Washart, St. Augustine Prep: Scored a pair of top-10 finishes at the MOC, taking eighth in the 500 free and 10th in the 200 free. He also took second in the 200 IM at the coaches meet.

Will Carpenter, St. Augustine Prep: A league champion in the 50 free, he also finished ninth in the state in that event.

Cole Garbutt, Mainland Regional: A junior, Garbutt took 11th in the state in the 200 IM and also won the CAL 100 butterfly title and was second in the 200 IM. He helped lead Mainland to its sixth consecutive sectional championship.

Liam Garbutt, Mainland Regional: Liam, a senior, won the league title in the 100 free and was second in the 50 free, and also scored top-15 finishes in both events at the MOC.

Dolan Grisbaum, Ocean City: Helped lead the Red Raiders to the sectional championship meet for the second straight year while also scoring top-15 finishes in the state in the 500 free and 200 IM.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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