Count Sheboygan North’s Koichi Toramaru, a foreign-exchange student from Japan, among those who love Wisconsin’s hospitality but hate its weather.
“My favorite part is I got to meet all of my favorite guys,” he said. “They are like family and swimming helped me meet other friends in the high school. But it is kind of chilly and is very, very cold. I need to get use to it, I think.
“But it’s been a good experience for me. My friends I made are very good friends.”
Toramaru joined the North swim team by showing up in the locker room the first day of practice.
Deylin Steinbruecker called it a pleasant surprise since he had never seen him before.
“He had his paper work and he was going to swim,” the Golden Raiders’ coach said.
Steinbruecker has had foreign-exchange students before, but none with any experience of being on a swim team.
Toramaru says he has been competing since he was 5 or 6 years old and is on his high school team back home.
Like the coach does with each swimmer at the start of the season, Steinbruecker figured out where Toramaru would best fit the team. He went over goals and explained how getting to the state meet works.
“He got that pretty quick,” Steinbruecker said.
That’s good, because Toramaru was one of a handful of North swimmers who participated at the Division 1 State Championship Saturday in Madison (for results, visit http://www.sheboyganbeacon.com).
Toramaru, who says his championship meet in Japan lasts two or three days, swam the 50-yard butterfly on the 200-medley relay team.
“I think it’s going to be a good experience and also exciting,” he said last week.
Another foreign-exchange student, Bartu Karabulut of Turkey, is also on North’s swim team but he did not qualify for state.
Like Toramaru though, there were times he would lead warm-up stretches before practice by counting aloud the number of times the exercises were done in their native language. Their teammates also counted in Japanese or Turkish.
“It was interesting, for sure,” Steinbruecker said. “It was really nice having them come out because I graduated half the team last year. They were an unexpected, pleasant surprise. We wouldn’t have done as well this year if we didn’t have them.”