Ask Scotlandville High’s Joseph Square Jr. why he swims and he’ll respond with a direct answer.
“I started swimming when I was three,” Square said. “It came naturally. I like it. I think more people should try it.”
In the Capital City Swim League, which is dominated by year-round swimmers who compete primarily for either private schools, suburban schools or magnet schools, Square is an anomaly.
Though Scotlandville is a magnet school, Square is one of the few African-American competitors and is Scotlandville’s lone competitor. He’s a Division I qualifier in two events for next month’s Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Swim Meet.
At last weekend’s CCSL meet, Square placed second in the 50-yard freestyle in 24.05 seconds and won the 100 breaststroke in 1 minute, 13.05 seconds.
There is more to Square than swimming. The junior plays cornerback on the Hornets’ football team and has already been voted team captain for the track team. He has a 3.7 grade-point average in Scotlandville’s engineering magnet program.
A typical day for Square starts at around 5 a.m. He gets to school at 7 a.m. and goes from class to football practice and meetings at 2:30 p.m. Square then heads to the Exxon Mobil YMCA for a 6:30 p.m. swim practice.
“It’s not really like I’m really killing myself,” Square said. “I’ve been doing this for so long now that I’m kind of used to it. I guess you could say the adrenalin I have keeps me going.
“Knowing my own standards, I don’t feel like I’ve come up to par so far swimming wise. I feel like I’m doing enough to get by and I can get better.”
The motivation to get better is a major one for Square, whose approach to sports while growing up was less than conventional.
He competed in track and attended Sherwood Middle Magnet, which didn’t have a football team. Square did compete in middle school swimming at Sherwood.
At first, Square wasn’t sold on the idea of swimming in high school. But then he met the Hornets coach Catherine Alexander, whose husband Desmond, is his Exxon Mobil swim coach.
“I’m the coach here, but my husband actually trains them so we’re a husband and wife team, Alexander said. “He (Square) is just so humble and has such good manners. He has it all.
“Joseph was the first state qualifier in school history last year. We’d like to see if he can get in the top eight at the city meet. Now, we have other kids interested swimming because he does it and then he goes out and excels in other sports.
“One of the football players told me when the team runs everybody will be bent over catching their breath, but not Joseph. He just keeps going. Swimming has something to do with that.”
In turn, Square would like to influence other minorities to try swimming.
“I think it’s a good thing to swim, especially if you are a minority,” Square said. “That’s what our summer is about. It’s an all-black swim team. It’s not that we won’t accept people of other races, because we will. We try to reach out to African-Americans to get them to swim.”
While reaching for a top-eight swimming finish, Square also wants to grab some football playing time.
“I didn’t start playing football until I got to high school,” Square said. “I’m a hard working person, and I don’t accept that anybody in front of me is necessarily better than me. But I do know there are other players with more experience.”
Scotlandville football coach Eric Randall said Square may get the playing time he seeks.
“Joseph is a heck of a kid,” Randall said.
“He’s new to football, but he shows signs of greatness. Hopefully, later this year or definitely next year he’ll be able to step in and play a key role for us.”
Track coach Sean Beauchamp expects Square to be a leader on and off the track. Last spring, Square posted a best time of 21.7 seconds in the 200 meters and ran the 400 in around 53 seconds. He ran on the 4x200 relay at the LHSAA’s 5A meet.
“Joe was hurt part of last year, and he can definitely lower his 400 time,” Beauchamp said. “He will be our key. He’s a great leader to follow because of how he works.
“We push for him to be involved as much as possible. Joe doesn’t want that idle time. He’s either hitting the books, the track, the football field or the pool.”