October 4, 2006 - Despite the lanky senior's blond hair, blue eyes and thick European accent, fellow Marana High School swimmers call Pawel Bondurak "El Presidente."
"I guess it's just a popularity thing. People like me because I'm Polish," said the reluctant team president. "I tried to refuse because it was going to be way too much for me. They didn't want to take my refusal so I had to stay."
The position - as well as the moniker - has grown on Bondurak, who heads one of the most talented bands of swimmers in the program's history.
But swimming is only a third of Bondurak's passions. The Polish import is quickly making a name for himself as a triathlete, a sport that combines swimming with cycling and running.
On Sept. 23, the 16-year-old burst onto the Arizona triathlon scene, winning his age group in the Phoenix Timex Triathlon. His time of 2 hours, 5 minutes in his first Olympic-distance triathlon was also good enough for 10th overall.
"I don't consider myself a swimmer, I am a triathlete," said Bondurak, who swam for a high school in San Antonio last year.
On the talent-laden Marana swim team he's more than just a lane-filler, he's a leader. Coaches granted Bondurak permission to take Tuesdays off from practice to rest his weary body after triathlon training on Saturdays and Sundays. But that hasn't stopped him from being an influential part of practice. Even on his off-day, he helps out with the squad's young swimmers perfecting their backstrokes.
"He doesn't mess around, he doesn't take that off time as far as you can't find him," said assistant coach Kim Dillon. "He's always into helping other people; he's very much one of the assets on this team as far as leadership."
Joining Bondurak as a newcomer on this year's Marana swim team is his sister Eva. Whereas Bondurak is reserved, stoic and all business in the pool, Eva, a sophomore, is the opposite - bubbly and boisterous. The difference in personalities makes for an interesting dynamic, especially when the two argue poolside in Polish, said head coach Kristin Bourget.
The family moved to Marana in March after Bondurak's father began military training at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. Shortly thereafter, Bondurak began running with the Tucson Grinders, a running group based out of Continental Ranch, and the Tucson Desert Heat, a Southern Arizona triathlon squad.
To continue his rugged training, Bondurak will join the school's track and field squad in the spring and is considering playing for Marana's soccer team this winter.
Swimming took precedence over cross country this season, despite the fact that Bondurak finds himself swimming shorter events such as the 100 and 200 freestyles. Ideally, to accommodate the 1.5 km distance of Olympic-style triathlons, Bondurak would prefer to swim longer events but team always comes first with the consummate team leader.
"I would like to be a good distance swimmer but there's a lot of other swimmers that are much better than me in distance (events)," said Bondurak.
The senior holds the team's top times in the 100-meter backstroke (1:05.75) and 200-individual medley (2:18.04) and is also a member of the Tiger's 200-medley relay and 400-freestyle relay squads.
"I'm not the best in the events that I would like to be the best, there's still work to be done," he said.
Bondurak's teammates have adopted their president's work ethic. This year, Marana has claimed wins over perennial swimming powerhouses Canyon Del Oro and Ironwood Ridge high schools. With a month left in the season, the Tigers are confident more wins will come.