From Brandeis University Athletics
Sophomore Andrew Baker of Wilmington, Mass., hasn't scored a ton of points for the Brandeis swimming and diving team, but he's one of the Judges' most valued members. He is consistent and versatile, having competed in just about every distance freestyle race, and a couple of backstroke events to boot.
But Baker's contribution to the Judges is far deeper than mere times and places and distances.
As a toddler, he was diagnosed with a genetic form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder. His father and sister also live with the disorder, so it was easy to detect at a young age. It affects his limbs and extremities, making simple acts like walking to class or holding a pencil difficult to manage.
"I always wanted to participate in team sports as a kid, but it just wasn't a good fit," Baker said. "As my muscles started to weaken, it was suggested I try swimming as a form of physical therapy."
As he progressed, Baker was encouraged by his younger sister and his swim teachers to try the sport competitively. The coach of the local club team denied him a spot at the time, saying he wouldn't be able to keep up at practice. Undeterred, Baker kept working at it, tried out the next year, and made the team. He went on to compete for his local YMCA and his high school squad at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Mass.
When it came time for college, Baker was looking for three things: a campus that is walkable and handicapped accessible; a strong program in Russian; and a place where he could continue to swim. In Brandeis he found all of those things.
"Never did I imagine that I would be able to be part of a college swim team until I met coach [Mike] Kotch," Baker said.