DRACUT BOY NOT A FISH OUT OF WATER ON GIRLS’ SWIM TEAM

Having his 16-year-old sister Chelsey, left, on the girls’ team helped freshman Philip Georgoulis get his feet wet., VALLEY DISPATCH/TORY GERMANN
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BY JENNIFER AMY MYERS, Valley Dispatch Staff

DRACUT — After a tough competition, Philip Georgoulis doesn’t hit the showers with his teammates. That would probably be considered sexual harassment.

Georgoulis, a 14-year-old freshman at Dracut High School, is the only male member of the girls swimming and diving team.

It was his sister’s idea.

“I had mentioned the possibility of Philip joining the team to a couple of the other girls and the captains’ parents, and they all thought it was a great idea,” said Chelsey Georgoulis, 16, a three-year veteran of the swim team, specializing in the breaststroke.

“We had a little sibling rivalry, but it was good, because he wasn’t a stranger on the team,” she added.

For Philip, a born athlete who wrestles in the winter, plays baseball all year round, and has 11 years of gymnastics under his belt, diving was a natural progression, but because there is no boys team at the high school, he was stuck hanging with the ladies.

“I actually didn’t think I was going to be the only guy on the team,” he said. “There was supposed to be one other, but he would have started the season too late, so he didn’t make it onto the team.”

Because of Philip’s presence, the team was required to register as a coed team with the MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association), and had he qualified for Sectionals or States, he would have had to wait until the winter to compete with the all boys teams.

Philip managed to fit right in with his female teammates, and none of the other guys at school gave him a hard time about playing on a girls team.

“A lot of guys actually told me they thought it was pretty cool,” shrugged the laidback Georgoulis.

His mom, Sherry Georgoulis, admits she was nervous about her son joining the girls team, but wasn’t going to tell him he couldn’t do something he wanted to do.

“Freshman year is hard enough as it is, and then doing something unique, where he was going to stand out worried me a little,” she said. “But all of the girls and the coaches were very supportive and encouraging. No one treated him like an anomaly.”

The divers on the team are coached by Kelly Reardon, diving coach at Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsboro, so although he was on the DHS team, Philip spent his practice time with the NDA girls.

“I’ve got to meet a lot of new people, which is really cool,” he said.

“You mean you got to meet a lot of girls. Who are you kidding?” laughed Sherry Georgoulis.

For a first-year diver, getting used to the cold water and endurance needed just to get in and out of the weather quickly, Georgoulis did all right for himself, placing seventhth out of 16 divers in the Merrimack Valley Conference 2005 Swimming and Diving Championships, and second on his team, behind team MVP Brianna DeRosa.

The highlight of Georgoulis’ season came in a meet against Methuen, where he made a 2 1/2 front flip dive.

“I was pretty surprised when I made that dive,” he recalled. “It is a lot harder than it looks.”

“One time at practice, I was doing a double and never let go and face-planted into the water,” he smirked, the memory of the pain still clear. “I hit my face so hard that it was still bright red like two hours later when my mom picked me up from practice.”

Dracut High swimming coach Lauren Murphy Akashian said she hopes Georgoulis’ presence on the girls’ team will inspire more boys to get involved in the sport and eventually start a boys swimming and diving team.

“In fact, if we can promote enough interest in swimming and diving, maybe the town will consider building a pool at the high school,” she said.

Have a story idea? E-mail Jennifer Amy Myers at jmyers@thevalleydispatch.com.