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Brothers rebound from father's tragic death to compete for SC swim titles

In the sport of swimming, just like in life, every second counts.

One second you can be ahead and winning, the other you can be trailing even by a 10th, 100th or 1,000th of a second and end up losing. The whole idea isn't just to swim, but swim fast - at least faster than the person in the lane beside you. To get off the block fast, to make it to the other end of the pool fast, to turn around fast, and get back to where you started from... fast.

The whole time, a clock is running and everyone there knows who's making every second count.

This certainly isn't something you have to remind Nation Ford High School swimmers Brandon and David Sweezer about. They also know that the rule doesn't apply just in the pool, but in life as well.

Seven months after their life was changed forever, the brothers will compete for a state title Saturday in the state High School League swimming finals in Columbia. The stretch between March and October might not seem all that long to some, but for the Sweezers it might as well be a lifetime ago.

In March, while on their way to a swim meet in Charlotte, the Sweezer boys - Brandon, 15, and David, who turns 14 this week - were riding with their parents, Bobette and Bill. There was an accident, and Bill, 53, was killed.

In a matter of a second, the Sweezer family was changed forever.

Since the accident, Brandon, a sophomore, and David, a freshman, have been doing what they do best, doing what they are passionate about - what their father was passionate about for them: swimming.

It took six weeks to heal physically, as David broke his collar bone. That was just one adjustment the family had to make.

"I had to take it slow for a little while," David said. "But now I can go all out without a problem."

The main adjustment was learning to live without their father, who was a key figure in their athletic lives.

Bill Sweezer was more than just a father who took his kids to practice and swim meets. He was heavily involved in the sport, volunteering with his sons' swim teams and serving as the treasurer of South Carolina Swimming, the governing body for USA Swimming in the state.

One might think that returning to swimming so soon would be rushing things, that Brandon and David needed to heal mentally and emotionally.

However, the pool has always been their second home.

"I wanted to get back in as soon as I could," David said. "We are so used to it; it would be hard for us to not swim. I like the routine of swimming, and that's where my dad would want us to be."

Brandon said, "It just felt natural to do so, and he would not have wanted us to stay out of the water unnecessarily. It feels right to be in the water and with our team."

The Sweezers' second family - their swimming family composed of members of the Rock Hill Rays and the Nation Ford Falcons - embraced them when they returned to the pool. It's the feeling of family they both enjoy about the sport.

And of course the winning, which they have been doing a lot of this season.

The brothers, who like most teenagers enjoy playing video games and hanging out with friends outside of the pool, say they swim with a greater purpose knowing their father would be proud of their success.

"He was very adamant about our success in the sport, and he always wanted us to try our hardest and do our best," Brandon said. "School and swimming are very important."

David said, "He would always try to help us and cheer for us at the swim meets. He wanted us to try our best."

The water has been a refuge for the brothers. Brandon started swimming year round at age 8, David at 7. The pool is a place they can go and know their father is with them.

"It helped us have something that we can always do and does not change much," David said. "Swimming keeps us very busy."

Swimming, Brandon said, "gives us something to keep our minds on other than his passing."

Nation Ford head coach Meredith Cataldo said the pool has been therapeutic in more than one way for the two star swimmers.

"I feel like swimming is their outlet," she said. "They will always remember their father every time they jump in the pool."

The brothers hope to continue their swimming careers at a Division I college one day, but their immediate goal is winning a state title Saturday by making every second count.