After achieving the title of best swimmer in Canada at the age of eight, the pressure that Captain Neil Simpson ’19 felt to continue with the sport eventually led him to quit at the age of 12. However, Simpson decided to recommence swimming again at 15, a year before coming to Andover and joining the team as a new Lower. Since then, Simpson has been a member of New England and National record-setting relays and currently holds the school record in the 200-Meter Individual Medley and in the 100-Meter Breaststroke. He is also a member of the school record-holding 200-Meter Medley Relay and 400-Meter Freestyle Relays groups. Coach David Fox said, “Neil had not swum seriously in the years immediately preceding his arrival at Andover, so we have seen him improve in his technique, his ability to train at high speeds for a long time, and his tactics.” Simpson started swimming in his local pool league out of Montreal, where he currently works. According to Simpson, swimming in the U.S. and at Andover is more focused on the team dynamic than on the indiviual. “Swimming in Canada [is] a bit different; you’re technically part of a team, but it’s a lot more individualized, focusing on you, yourself, your event only. But you come to a place like Andover or you go to a college in the states, it’s all about the team. It’s all about relays. It’s all about just racing and having a good time, and that just made me fall in love with the sport again,” said Simpson. Simpson maintains focus at practice, according to his teammates, but is also one of the predominant personalities behind the closeness of the team. Simpson balances focus and a “goofy” attitude that fosters a fun atmosphere on the team and compels his teammates to respect him, according to Max Hunger ’20. Hunger said, “He just knows what to do. He knows what he’s doing, he knows what’s best for the team, and he knows how to apply it. Also, he just has the respect of everybody. He has that serious attitude that you respect. It’s unique. With that kind of atmosphere and high-performance, he knows how to balance that carelessness and having fun with also the seriousness of what’s the right thing to do for training. It’s a sight to see. He’s a natural-born leader. When he tells everyone to be quiet, they listen.” Marcus Lee ’21 said, “Last year, even though Nick was our captain, Neil also served as kind of like a Co-Captain. He was always cheering us on and giving us a lot of spirit. He was a really good role model and someone that I looked up-to last year, especially during Easterns where he was really focused and really in-the-zone. The way he works hard at practice is special and different from anybody else. That’s what he did and still does.” As a Tri-Varsity Captain, Simpson notes that being a swim Captain requires him to look out for both the individual goals of his teammates and the more general goals of the team, unlike water polo and volleyball. In addition, Simpson takes inspiration from other leaders by modeling their energy to cultivate a better team dynamic. “I really look up to Tom Brady. He just puts in the work and comes to work serious everyday with the same attitude everyday, and that’s something I try to model: coming and doing my job, doing what I need to do to make the team better and hoping other people follow my lead. At the same time, to be a leader you can’t only lead by example. You also have to collaborate and create a team culture. I look up to Christian Alberga [’17] a lot. I thought he did a really good job doing that: integrating [Juniors], Seniors, everyone into the team culture, and that’s something I try to do every practice,” said Simpson. Alberga, Former Captain of Andover Boys Swimming, said, “Neil is the ultimate team player. He always brings positive vibes and high energy to the team. He is most outstanding through the compassion he has for his teammates. He truly cares cares about all of the people around him and he wants nothing more than to see all of his friends be happy and successful.” Ralph Lam ’22 said, “I already knew about Neil since the beginning of the school year, in fact, before the start of the school year. He sent me an email asking me about how I was, how I felt about coming to Andover, how excited I was coming to the swim team. Since the start of the season, he has always been really open. He hasn’t really stayed away from the [Juniors]. He always comes over and sits with all of the [Juniors] at any sort of meal, any time of the day. According to Simpson, the team’s main goal is preparing for Eastern Championships in February. Simpson assumed the role of Captain last spring and has been preparing the team for this event ever since. “We’re working with [Coach] Fox, working with the boys… we just want everyone to swim as fast as they can at Easterns in February this year.… That’s been the goal since the end of the season last year, basically, since the beginning of March last year. We put plans in place in terms of dryland, in terms of training, in terms of summer plans that will lead up to that Easterns meet in February,” said Simpson. Simpson believes that one aspect of the team that separates it from other teams on campus is its balance of grade-levels and its family dynamic. “The swim team is just such an amazing group of guys. The really special thing is that most people are on it for three or four years usually, so that means we form really tight bonds because we’re together for a long time. A lot of teams can be PG/Senior/Upper dominated, but we have all classes, which is really special. It made it really easy to integrate into Andover when I first came here. It was just like a second family,” said Simpson. Alberga said, “From early Neil stood out as being very mature and assumed a leadership role from his first year on the team. He has the biggest heart of anyone I know. Even as an alum two years out of Andover I still feel the love he brings to our team. He exemplifies why we refer to the team as a family because he cares for everyone so much.”
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