Marciano bonded with his new team and he swam well. College powerhouses like Michigan and the state of Arizona reached out to him. But his numbers collapsed. He barely saw his friends. Swimming became a job.
“I loved competing, but it got to the point where I hated training,” he said.
It took him about six months to have the nerve to tell his parents that he was thinking of taking a break. They supported him, but also told him, “Don’t rush this decision.”
However, Marciano knew his motivation had evaporated when he went to Ithaca, NY, to meet his club team and he didn’t look up beforehand. So when he was told he was having a best time in the 50 freestyle, he didn’t feel much joy. After that, he only attended high school reunions, mostly to be with friends.
“I saw an infinite ladder — no matter what I did, there would always be something I would reach,” he said.
The following year Marciano visited Zion National Park with his father. He was mesmerized by people climbing walls and buttresses. So he went to the rocks.
Since his first outdoor climb in the summer of 2019, Marciano has devoured climbing articles, videos and podcasts. He posts photos and videos on Instagram and YouTube.
“It’s a liberating sport,” he said. “It’s working together.”
Marciano is not disconnected from swimming. He occasionally teaches classes and has attended the Big East Championships to support a former club teammate.
“I’m not like, oh, I’ve wasted 10, 11 years of my life,” Marciano, an aspiring psychologist, said during a recent training session at Randolph. “Many of the techniques – training and competition – I can apply to everything I do.”
Marciano’s parents are a little more careful. In an upstairs office, they hold a shadow box full of ribbons and articles, highlighted by a July 2012 Swimming World Magazine profile featuring a smiling Marciano, suspenders and all. A 45-gallon plastic bin overflows with trophies and national certificates for age groups.
“He was once the fastest in the world, at 10 and under, in the 50m backstroke,” recalls his mother, Patricia, wistfully.
On a recent damp day in the Shawangunks, Marciano joined two climbing buddies, Will Stollsteimer, 23, and Mike Stollsteimer, 17, brothers from Newtown, Pennsylvania.
The trio applied chalk to the crevices, for better friction, and dissected the difficulty of their favorite boulders (a V4 here, a V9 there). Marciano was excited for the physical test and the spiritual liberation that would come with it. At Gill Egg, he used his Michigan corn and blue sweatpants and every inch of his six-foot frame to dry the damp patches on the rocks.
“I thought it would be less wet,” he said.