Pushing for personal best, Pretorius dives in with determination, discipline


Stephanie Alvarez

Coppell High School junior Johan Pretorius accepts his trophy for the 50-yard butterfly with CHS seniors Emil Aaltonen and Elieser Gonzales at the Vaquero Battle on Nov. 9 at the Coppell YMCA. Pretorius was the only CHS swimmer to go to state last year and set a pool record at the TISCA invitational in Texarkana.

Sally Parampottil, Staff Writer

Coppell High School junior Johan Pretorius set the Pinkerton Fitness Center pool record for the 100-yard backstroke in Texarkana during the TISCA invitational meet. The next day, he broke that record, beating his previous time.


He was not satisfied when he saw his time of 52.2 seconds.


“It was close, but it wasn’t my personal best [of 51.4 seconds],” Pretorius said. “At first I was angry because I hate adding time and I added a little bit of time.”


This mentality helps drive Pretorius in his swimming career. As the only swimmer on the CHS swim team to advance to state last year and to swim at the junior national level, it is clear that the mentality has been working.


“I always strive to be better,” Pretorius said. “Even if I get a good time, I always try to see how I can improve. Swimming shapes your mentality. What I take from swimming is what I translate to life.”


Though Pretorius learned to swim at a young age, he did not start competitive swimming until after he moved to America. Born in London, Pretorius spent time in England, South Africa and Dubai before moving to the United States.


After four years at Lakeside Aquatic Club (LAC), Pretorius moved to the North Texas Nadadores, his current club.


Pretorius made the varsity swim team in his freshman year, breaking the school record for the 100 backstroke with a time of 53.1 seconds. From then onwards, he worked hard to represent Coppell. His most notable event was the trip to state during his sophomore year, which Pretorius secured by placing second in the 100 backstroke in regionals.


“We knew he had a chance,” CHS swim coach Marieke Mastebroek said. “He had to work hard. It had been [a while] since the last time someone from Coppell went to state.”


Despite feeling under the weather at state, Pretorius swam relatively well, placing 11th in finals. He also broke his previous school record with his personal best of 51.4 seconds.


“It was a milestone for him because he made finals,” Mastebroek said. “I don’t think anyone was expecting that because he was a sophomore.”


His performance is not specific to competitions. Pretorius puts in everything he has during practice as well and displays the mindset of a true athlete.


“He’s super motivated,” Mastebroek said. “He does a great job with all the aspects of being a high level athlete outside of the pool… He takes care of his body, he works hard, he trains hard and he’s very coachable.”

I always strive to be better. Even if I get a good time, I always try to see how I can improve. Swimming shapes your mentality. What I take from swimming is what I translate to life.

— CHS junior Johan Pretorius


With all that is going on, it is fair to assume Pretorius has a bright future for him. However, instead of continuing competitive swimming through and beyond college as one would believe, he has plans for another course of action.


Pretorius aims to attend the Naval Academy. There, he wants to become a Navy SEAL.


This would mean an incredibly strict diet and intense workout routine. Though the degree of the regimen would drastically increase, the concept would not be new to him.


“[Swimming] tests you,” Pretorius said. “It pushes you to the limits. I love to push myself and see how far I can go. I did football, lacrosse [and] track, it’s nothing compared to swimming. It’s a whole different ball game in terms of pushing yourself and training. It’s more intense.”


His current practice schedule means 20.5 hours of swimming per week. That is a little more than 12 percent of his week spent in the water.


As for diet, Pretorius keeps himself consistent. He takes in 5,000-6,000 calories per day, making sure he eats a lot of carbs before races. His dedication to keeping his healthy food patterns strong has been noticed by his coaches and teammates alike.


“He works hard on his eating and nutrition,” sophomore swimmer Cole Tramel said. “If we go to restaurants on a travel trip, he’ll always gets the healthiest option. He’s very adamant about that.”


The focus and commitment required are also traits he already exhibits when it comes to swimming.


“He’s really into the sport,” Tramel said. “He’ll do a lot of warm ups and get used to the pool before his race, and he’ll listen to music and get focused before he swims. After his race, he makes sure he warms down a lot so he isn’t sore and he’s ready for the next race.”


With his current training and intense passion, becoming a Navy SEAL is not too unrealistic. However, that is a goal for the far future.


There are other goals, smaller goals, that he can focus on for now: winning in state in his senior year, making it to junior nationals this year or even beating his personal best for the 100 backstroke to set another school record.


Second place at regionals, going to state, setting a pool record in Texarkana. All of this is still not good enough for Pretorius. With his determination, work ethic and dedication, he knows he still has room to grow.