Desert Ridge High School swimmer Camron Pazand was used to being one of the fastest swimmers at his former high school located near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
But after moving to Phoenix earlier this year for his senior season in order to be closer to family, he says he immediately felt the differences between competing in a small town and competing in the fifth-largest city in the United States.
“The competition here in Phoenix is 10 times what it was in Albuquerque,” Pazand said. “Being here with all of these fast swimmers has kind of made me think I was slow, but after I talked with my coach (Brock Harr) it’s really just a different competition.”
Pazand says his transition across state lines for his last year of high school was difficult at first, but his easy-going nature allowed him to quickly fit in and make friends with his teammates. Among his new friends is another senior swimmer at Desert Ridge, Karina Harr, who says she became fast friends with Pazand.
“It took a couple of days to get to know him, but he’s a really good friend and a super nice guy,” Karina Harr said. “We’re all very glad he’s on the team.”
To his coach, Brock Harr, Pazand’s talent is comparable to that of a 660-horsepower sports car.
“It’s like having a Ferrari in the garage,” Harr said of having Pazand on the team. “You got a couple of Corvettes and a Ferrari sitting there. He’s made the relays unbelievably fast.”
Harr expects Pazand to be one of the top six freestyle swimmers in the 100-yard and 50-yard events. Pazand agreed that freestyle is his best stroke, but says freestyle is only third on his list of favorite strokes.
Instead, Pazand revels in the intensity and determination that come with butterfly and backstroke, and with good reason. Last year, at the New Mexico State Championships he finished third in the 100-yard butterfly and fourth in the 100-yard backstroke.
To get Pazand to adjust to swimming against an increased level of competition, Harr turned up the intensity on Pazand’s training regimen. Every day, the pair goes through a practice regime designed specifically for Pazand. They focus on exploding off the blocks, and the breakout from underwater, which are two key aspects in shaving time for a sprinter.
Harr admitted he was never much of a sprinter when he swam for the University of Arkansas and said teaching Pazand has been as much of a learning experience for him as it has been for his swimmer. When he began coaching Pazand, the first order of business for Harr was to push the transfer swimmer’s limits, and specifically, his endurance.
“Yeah, I’ve coached Camron a little harder than he is used to,” Harr said. “Camron had a hard time with the expectation that this coach wants to put a lot of yards on him.”
Still, Harr recognized early on in his training of Pazand that he was coaching a unique type of swimmer.
Harr described sprinters as “strange,” and compared them to a kicker in football or a goalie in hockey, specialists that are separated from the team. Instead, Harr stated he found one of the most intelligent swimmers he has ever coached in Pazand. A well-rounded swimmer, and person.
In his free time, Pazand says he likes to play video games, but most notably, he says he enjoys teaching himself to play instruments off his computer. Currently, he is learning to play guitar and piano.
Pazand wants to create his own path and live this new experience in a new place for him. Pazand says he doesn’t model himself after anyone but makes goals for what he wants for himself in the future. Unlike most high school seniors, he has set distinct goals for himself, both for the short and long term.
“My goals in life are to graduate college with a finance degree and find a job somewhere in Phoenix or California and have a wife and live a happy life,” Pazand said. “My current goal is to be fast enough to get a scholarship at a Division I, this means I have to make my junior nationals time.”
According to USA swimming, the qualifying times for Pazand’s two best events, the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle, are 23.99 and 51.99, respectively. Pazand’s personal bests in those two events are 21.85 in the 50-yard freestyle and 46.81 in the 100-yard freestyle, proving that he has the speed to achieve his goals.
Although to his teammates, Pazand projects confidence externally, he says he is very hard on himself in practice and can get nervous before races. Still, he sees the nervousness as a catalyst to help him swim faster.
“It gets my adrenaline rushing and I love that feeling so much,” Pazand said. “That’s what makes swimming so much fun for me.”
One of Pazand’s closest friends on the team, senior Luke Walker, described swimming with Pazand as a “privilege.” If Walker sees any inkling of nervousness from his friend on the blocks, he is quick to offer words of encouragement.
“If we are swimming a relay and it’s a close race, I will say something simple like, ‘Hey, you got this bro,” Walker said. “I try to turn him from being nervous to excited.”
Pazand got into swimming as a way to get closer with his older sister. He has two siblings, both older sisters. One currently resides in Arizona with her husband and the other is a student at Grand Canyon University. The move from Rio Rancho to Phoenix was inspired mostly to become a family unit once more.
“I love talking with them and laughing and just having a good time with them,” Pazand says of his time with his sisters, adding, “I love them to death.”
Buoyed by the confidence of his coach, Pazand is set to put the Arizona high school swimming community on notice this season.
Pazand placed third at the AIA state championships on Friday, Nov. 8. He followed up with a solid performance at the Meet of Champions the next day.
“As a whole, I think he’s on pace to be an elite swimmer,” Harr said. “The kid’s got skills.”
Jack Johnson is a sports journalism student at Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism covering Desert Ridge High School athletics.