Favorite athlete: Lou Gehrig
Favorite team: New York Jets
Favorite memory competing in sports: Getting to spend time with all my teammates. I love the bus rides, the practices, the pasta parties, and all the fun times we have spent together.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: We were doing squats on the pool deck and one of my teammates ripped his suit.
Music on mobile device: I love to listen to any type of music.
Future plans: Go to college and earn an ocean engineering degree.
Words to live by: Isaiah 40: 30-31
One goal before turning 30: Start a family.
One thing people don’t know about me: I have played the cello since fourth grade.
By Ed Morrone
With his post-high school sights squarely focused on the U.S. Naval Academy, it’s no surprise to hear that Ben Komita has his captain duties on lockdown.
Komita is a senior swimmer for Central Bucks South, but he’s so much more than just an athlete. In fact, Komita is in his second year as a captain of the team, making him just the second swimmer in the program’s 14-year history to serve in that role prior to senior year. He’s a respected leader and ambassador for his school and his team, on and off the pool deck.
“As much as we want the kids to swim fast, we also teach them to be respectful, responsible gentlemen,” said Jeff Lake, who has been the boys swimming coach at South since the program’s inception. “We’re big on character education as much as we are swimming. Ben epitomizes all of that. He’s so invested in it, both in what he does as well as his teammates.
“He’s another coach on the deck. He’s the hub of the team in that he holds the family and spirit aspect of it altogether. Oh, and he’s a pretty good swimmer, too.”
Komita began swimming as a 5-year-old at the Philadelphia Sports Club, tagging along with family as his sister also swam competitively. His first summer in the pool was a wash as Komita wasn’t keen on his head being submerged underwater, but by the next summer, he was beating kids two years older than him in the 25-yard butterfly race.
He tried a handful of other sports as most kids tend to do, but Komita soon realized the pool was the only place he wanted to be.
“The one thing that drew me to it the most is how it brought so many people from different places together who I would never have met otherwise,” he said. “I’ve made so many friends at other schools in areas I never would have known. That, and the fact that swimming is about team camaraderie. It’s a physically grueling, demanding sport and the team has to stick together over the course of a long season. That’s what pushes and drives us.”
Komita hit the ground running — or, more appropriately, hit the water swimming — right out of the gate as a freshman for the Titans. His goal in the 100 butterfly that year was to break a minute, falling just short with a time of 1:00.09. That only motivated him to work harder over the summer, and by the time he was a sophomore, he had dropped more than four seconds off that time.
Komita also swims the 100 backstroke, and he’s dropped his time from 1:08 as a freshman to a shade under a minute between sophomore and junior year, and these examples proved to Komita that hard work in the pool produced results, which also boosted his overall confidence as a swimmer and person.
At the end of Komita’s sophomore year, Lake bequeathed to him the Titan Award, one the coach had made up for the end-of-season awards ceremony that “epitomizes hard work, given to a great kid that you know when he gets sent out into the world after high school, that he’s going to do amazing things.” That honor also usually goes to a senior, but Komita was so far ahead of the maturity curve as a tenth grader that he didn’t give Lake much of a choice.
“The Titan Award was a huge honor, because I know it’s usually for upperclassmen,” Komita said. “I owe a lot of what I learned to the seniors on the team when I was a freshman. They taught me how to conduct myself as an individual and to respect my teammates and coaches. Winning that showed me that the effort I’d been putting in to helping the team be successful was not going unnoticed. It was a springboard into launching me into a bigger leadership role.”
As a junior, Komita’s final time in the butterfly was a 56.25, which was actually slower than where he finished as a sophomore. That said, he still just missed qualifying for districts, getting two consideration cuts (the top 42 swimmers advance to districts, and Komita was 45th, but still did participate as the leadoff in the backstroke relay medley) and a new goal to strive for over the summer. If there’s anything you need to know about Komita, according to Lake, is that failure only fuels Komita, rather than frightening him.
“Even though he was dealing with disappointment, he still made the best of it and cheered for his teammates,” Lake said. “That’s what I mean when I say Ben is an all-around good guy. He handles disappointment with high character, and that’s true in everything he does. He’s kind and nice and there for his teammates, and they respect him for that.”
With South’s Senior Night coming up against Central Bucks West, Komita is hoping to receive his automatic bid for districts. His butterfly time is down to 55.73, he needs to hit 55.33 to qualify. He’s also eclipsed the backstroke consideration cut of 58.6 with a time of 58.39, needing a 56.8 to get the auto bid. However, Komita is locked in on the fly.
“I’m looking at Senior Night to try and do it,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of emotion, and I want to combine that with the realization that this is my last real opportunity to succeed as a high school swimmer. I need to drop four-tenths of a second, and I’m hoping all the hard work I’ve put in this season pays off. If I do make the cut, I’m just hoping to leave it all out there at districts. I know I’ll never have that chance again, so I don’t want to waste it.”
However, if Komita does fall short of a district auto bid, it won’t be the end of the world, either. Shortcomings are sometimes just an unfortunate part of life, but Komita knows that it’s how you respond to those obstacles that is truly the measure of the man.
“I definitely have experienced failure as a swimmer and haven’t always achieved my goals,” he said. “It’s taught me that I’m resilient, and I won’t give up in the face of failure. If I just gave up the moment I fell short, then I’m never going to give myself the chance to succeed. If I do fail, I want to learn from my mistakes so that I can overcome them.”
As mentioned, Komita carries the maturity of someone who realizes that while he loves to compete as a swimmer, that there is more to both life and Komita than athletic accomplishments. He’s the type that wants to experience everything he possibly can out of life.
Komita has played the cello since he was in fourth grade. He’s also very proud of his faith, having gone on mission trips with his church to locales both near (Philadelphia) and far (Florida and the Dominican Republic). Komita has brought that charitable spirit to South, where he has helped arrange a sponsorship for a young Dominican girl named Daniella, an initiative already in its third year. Lake also runs the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at the school, a group that Komita is involved in. They meet twice a month for 15 to 20 minutes, with a different student leading the discussion each time. The group discusses Bible verses and how they can be applied to daily life.
“It’s geared toward athletes and just teaching them how to handle certain situations when things don’t go right,” Lake said. “His faith plays a big role in his leadership ability in that he has a way he wants to represent himself to the world. He’s not walking the halls at school trying to save people; it’s more that as a role model he wants to act a certain way and lead by example. He shows what he thinks is the best way to live, not through preaching, but through living.”
The mission trips Komita embarked on especially helped him see the world through a different lens.
“We’ve helped rebuild houses, run Bible studies and just helped teach people about God who wouldn’t know otherwise,” he said. “Going to impoverished areas showed me just how much I have to be thankful for, and I realize I can’t take any of that for granted. Living out my faith has grown me into the person I am today just in trying to live my life the way Christ lived his: be respectful and show love to all people I meet. I don’t want to be someone who is looked down upon because I don’t treat others the way I hope to be treated.”
Despite the fact that he’s still just a kid in high school, Komita speaks like a leader folks would want to follow. This fact, as well as his lifelong love of the water, is what has led to Komita’s interest in attending college at the United States Naval Academy. A strong student at South — especially in his math and science courses — Komita would like to study ocean engineering, and it just so happens that Navy has the top collegiate program in the country for that specific field, which he discovered almost by accident during a seventh-grade research project.
“I’ve always loved the beach and the water, and not just because of swimming,” he said. “I’m interested in things like how the ocean interacts with shorelines, how we can prevent beaches from eroding and islands from wearing away. Ocean engineers also design marinas and harbors, just a lot of interesting things that involve the water.”
On Jan. 12, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania announced his selections for military service academy nominations to 24 high school students from Bucks and Montgomery Counties. The 24 students, including Komita, received recommendations from the congressman to attend either the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Air Force Academy or the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. And although a nomination does not guarantee entry to a military academy, it doesn’t hurt, either; and even if Komita does not end up attending Navy, nominees often receive ROTC scholarships or nominations to other service academies.
Nash Nickerson, a former diver for C.B. South, is currently a member of the diving team at Navy. Komita and Nickerson have gotten close, so much so that last year Komita spent a weekend with Nickerson on the Annapolis, Maryland, campus, meeting with the swim coach and sitting in on classes.
“Nash is an inspiration to me, because he combined his love of the water and swimming/diving into service of his country,” Komita said. “I view service to my country as the greatest honor, as so many men and women have served and died for our country to be where it is today. Service comes in many forms, and I view military service as the greatest way to give back.”
For Lake, Komita is one of the most special kids he’s ever had the privilege of coaching, and there’s no doubt that Komita’s graduation will create a void in the swim program. Lake will miss having Komita around, but the coach also is beyond excited for his pupil’s bright future after high school.
“I think what I’ll miss most about Ben is his ability to adapt, to get knocked down and get right back up,” Lake said. “He’s seen success and learned from it, just as he’s seen failure and learned from that. Ben knows that things in life will get you down and won’t be easy, and that’s okay; whether things go bad or awesome, he knows how to embrace both. He’s really good at staying positive during good and bad times, and I think that’s why people are drawn to him and why he’s so liked by others.”
Komita is also excited for the mystery of what the future holds, which for him is becoming an ocean engineer and hopefully starting a family before he’s 30, wanting to raise his future kids “to be better people than I am.” But he will also miss his time as a student-athlete at South, knowing full well that he’s in the position he’s in in large part due to his experiences during these last four years.
“I’ll miss those relationships I’ve formed, especially in swimming, because I know I’ll never be on a team like this ever again,” he said. “We’ve spent two hours a day, six days a week together, doing things as teammates as well as outside of school. We spend time together as friends, and I’ll miss them because of how close we’ve grown. It’s just been an amazing experience that I’m not sure will ever be able to be replicated.”