Washington Co-op junior Leo Edwards is one of the Journal Star area’s top freestyle swimmers. He also plays soccer for the Panthers in the fall prior to the swimming season. Edwards is among the area leaders in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke events, but considers himself as a freestyle specialist. He was second-team all Mid-Illini Conference last season. Edwards has been swimming since he was 9, when he was talked into it by his grandfather, Walter Ruppman, who helps coach the team.

Journal Star reporter Johnny Campos had five questions for Edwards:

1. Is playing soccer during the fall beneficial for you, as far as getting in shape for the swimming season?

Both of these sports involve a high level of fitness, and soccer is good cross training which helps me build up my cardiovascular endurance.

2. The Panthers had their highest finish in the Mid-Illini Conference meet last year, when they placed second. Did the team have high expectations coming into this season?

For the Mid-Illini Conference meet, our team and coaches have the highest expectations.

3. How did your grandfather talk you into swimming, and how is it having him helping coach the team?

I was signed up for the Washington Water Jets at age 9 and I was terrible. But my grandpa saw potential and helped me become a better swimmer. My Grandpa is very encouraging to all the swimmers on the team, and he loves to offer advice on how to improve your stroke. Coach (Tom) Smith and Grandpa are the perfect duo. 

4. You seem to favor the freestyle events, even though you do swim the "odd strokes." Why do you prefer the freestyle?

I prefer the freestyle because its the fastest and most competitive stroke.

5. You are not a year-round swimmer. Are you satisfied with the progress you have made since joining the Panthers, only swimming during the season? And do you enjoy the extra free time that decision allows for you?

I am proud with my progress but you can never be satisfied until you have reached your full potential. I never really have free time, I play club soccer in the offseason and study for school. In the summer, I work full time. Fun fact: My Grandpa, my father, and I race triathlons in the summer.