The impact that Thatcher Smith ’20 has made both in and out of the pool has enhanced the Deerfield community immeasurably. Through his kind nature and fierce work ethic, Smith is a true testament to the generosity of spirit and grit that each and every Deerfield student should strive to achieve.
Smith started swimming at age 8 with his local pool’s summer swim team. At age 10 he started swimming year round and by 2017, he participated in YMCA nationals, which he has participated in every year since. At Deerfield, he joined the team as a new sophomore and made an immediate impact. Now, as a captain in his last swimming season at Deerfield, he continues to contribute to the team in and out of the pool.
In the water, Smith has been one of Deerfield’s most versatile, reliable swimmers. Some words that came up when his teammates were describing Smith were: “relentless, team-focused, dedicated” by Robert Amundson ‘22, “driven, fast, supportive” by Mark Cai ‘22, and “electric” by Mason Zhao ‘20.
Assistant Coach of Boys Varsity Swimming Mark Spencer as well as Head Coach Patricia Batchelor described Smith as “curious, hard-working, loyal” and a“compassionate team player.”
Ms. Batchelor recalled one instance when Smith exhibited his never-quit, team first attitude: “At NMH, in the 400 free relay, which is the last event of the meet and everyone is tired, [Smith] caught up a substantial distance to win. For me that is really impressive and has a profound impact on everyone else.”
This year, due to the small size of the team, each member of the swim team has had to swim a variety of events, and as one of Deerfield’s fastest swimmers, Smith has swam almost every event. However, not only has Smith stepped up to each occasion in the pool, but he has also inspired younger swimmers to step outside of their comfort zones. The work ethic and focus he brings to each practice have definitely contributed to the team’s “small but mighty” culture that led the team to success against much bigger teams.
In light of his contributions, Smith described swimming as “the time every day that I get to unwind and enjoy being the water. I have fallen in love with the sport and it means the world to me… I swim because it is the most consistent aspect of my life that will always be there for me.” When asked what makes swimming special to him, he replied: “Swimming is different from other sports because there is a simple equation that determines the results you see during competitions: amount of time spent training + how hard you work in that time = your results. Simple!!”
Smith also identified the team atmosphere as what he loves the most about swimming at Deerfield. “The team is my family and the respect we have for one another is unparalleled by any other swim program I’ve been a part of,” he said. “Swimming has given me a family and put me in a large network of amazing student athletes who all have the same understanding and appreciation for the sport and love to do what they want.”
Ms. Batchelor praised Smith’s development throughout his years at Deerfield, saying: “[Smith] has developed as a leader and someone who is in tune with their teammates and is perceptive about how they are feeling.”
His exceptional leadership has made Smith a role model for many underclassmen on the team. For Robert Amundson `22, Smith is an encouraging mentor who has helped him through numerous challenges and hardships. “[Smith is] always there to push me through hard practices and is always there to motivate me to go faster during meets and practice,” he said. “He is willing to do anything for the team and will swim whatever he needs to for the sake of the team.”
For Mark Cai `22, “Seeing him [Smith] either in my lane or the lane over always pushing the pace no matter the set is always impressive to watch, and pushes me.”
Next year, Thatcher will continue his swimming career at Division 1 Colgate University. The Deerfield community thanks Thatcher for his friendliness and countless contributions to Deerfield swimming. Although he will be greatly missed, his lasting impact will stay with the team for years to come.