Brothers on Highlands swim team dedicated season to grandfather, A-K Valley sports figure

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Saturday, December 23, 2017 | 11:17 PM


Cole Masarik has his sights set on earning a medal in the 100-yard breaststroke at the WPIAL championships and qualifying for states.

The Highlands senior swam individually at WPIALs last season and placed 16th in the event, dropping nearly 10 seconds from the beginning of his junior season.

Masarik’s journey in the pool from an early age and his efforts for the Golden Rams team, he said, was strengthened through the dedication and care of his grandfather, John Masarik.

John Masarik, an educator and football, basketball and swim coach for more than three decades at several schools in the A-K Valley and a swim manager and instructor for 50-plus years at Sylvan Park Pool in Natrona Heights, died in June. He was 92.

“Every year at the (Sylvan) banquet, he would get a torch out, and it would get passed from coach to coach,” Cole said. “He said it was symbolic of passing the torch to make the next generation better than the one that came before it. It was about the passing on of character traits such as full commitment to something or having a strong work ethic.”

Masarik’s health was failing last winter and spring, Arabia said, and he went through different stays in the hospital.

But, she added, he would keep tabs on his grandson’s performances.

“He was the spitting image of great health for the longest time,” Arabia said. “He lived a long, full and healthy life. His grandsons all are in the best of shape, and that started with John and what he taught them.”

Cole began honoring his grandfather during football season by wearing No. 88, the same number John wore when playing at Pitt in the early 1950s.

Masarik, a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, was only a couple of months shy of his 90th birthday when he helped celebrate Sylvan’s 50th anniversary in June 2014.

“It’s my devotion. I love it,” Masarik told the Valley News Dispatch at that time.

Masarik was pleased to share the anniversary with others in the community.

“I’m gonna get on the wagon here and celebrate with the rest of the people,” he quipped.

Masarik’s life is celebrated from the impact he had on others to the examples of his swimming legacy competing today for Highlands.

“I miss him a lot, but I know I will see him again someday,” Cole said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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