Talented on stage and in the pool

Wrigley Hemphill

NEW CARLISLE — As one strolls into New Prairie's swim and dive complex, it's hard to miss the navy school record board hanging on the white, tiled wall just above the middle of the pool.

Etched onto the boys' 100-yard backstroke category is the name of junior Wrigley Hemphill, who set the school record in the event last year as a sophomore. It can also be found under the medley relay school record that was set last year — one that began with Hemphill dominating in the backstroke as the first leg.

It's impressive to see Hemphill glide through the water and dominate the competition. But where he impresses the most comes before he even touches the water when he sings the National Anthem before every home swim meet.

"And he does it all acapella," New Prairie head swim coach Ashley Wojtysiak said. "We're all about showcasing our student-athletes' talents, and it's really great that we get to see Wrigley sing before our meets. I think it gets him really focused and in the zone to swim, too."

While Hemphill now energizes the crowd with his singing, there was a time when he couldn't even do it in front of his parents. When he was in elementary school, he'd sneak out to his backyard or another quiet place to practice singing.

It was something he knew he loved to do, finding out by singing along to late 2000s and early 2010s pop like Jason Derulo, Akon and artists of the sort. But he wasn't comfortable enough to let his family hear his pipes for some time.

Over the years came more and more singing, and in turn, more and more of a comfortability performing in front of people. It started with Hemphill singing for his family, then slowly turned into a choir career. He then morphed his love for singing with theater, in which he's found great success as well.

"I'm probably most passionate about theater," Hemphill said. "It combines my love for singing, dancing and acting; and it lets me express myself on stage in ways I otherwise can't. There's something about performing up on stage that I really love."

With theater and choir being year-round activities, Hemphill — who also plays tennis in the fall — has a jam-packed schedule for the first semester or so of the school year. One look at his schedule in the winter would stress out even the most organized of people.

When New Prairie has morning swim practices, he wakes up when the sun is still down. Then commences a hectic school day that ends at 2 p.m.

Hemphill gets no breaks in between that and another swim practice, however. He stays there until an undetermined time in between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. so he can make it to choir practice, which he participates in for another two hours.

From there, he heads over to theater practice, which he is especially focused on right now with the winter play coming up soon. It's often times past 9 p.m. when theater ends for Hemphill, signaling when he can finally head home.

His day isn't close to over then, though. Hemphill grabs a quick dinner after he gets back home and proceeds to finish about two to three hours of homework to maintain his quality grade point average. Once he's satisfied with his work, he can finally lay his head down and go to sleep.

"(My schedule) is absolutely crazy," Hemphill laughed. "I really don't have much time to relax, but I get to do so many things I enjoy all day. To be successful in (swimming, choir and theater), I can't go about anything halfway. I have to be fully committed to all of them; and my schedule is a lot because of it, but it's all worth it in the end."

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