By GREG MENGELT
Jeffersonville has a great tradition of swimming.
Ben Hesen was a four-time state finalist before winning championships at Indiana University and making Olympic trails finals. Before swimming at West Point, Zach Blankenbeker was a state runner-up for Jeff.
Neither of those great Red Devils accomplished as much at Jeffersonville at T Martin.
Martin qualified for the state meet in 11 events. He had eight individual top-10 finishes in eight tries. He swam in seven championship heats and closed his career with three two-four finishes and a pair of thirds.
The future Indiana Hoosier has more medals than anyone in Jeff swimming history, making him the most decorated Red Devil ever. That includes greats Hesen and Blankenbeker.
“There’s different ways of measuring it,” Jeff coach Keith Gast said of Martin being the all-time Jeff great. “Obviously, Ben Hesen won four state titles. He swam in four finals and got four first places. But T had 11 top-eight finishes. That means 11 times he was all-state. Certainly you could argue that for four years, he competed at a level no one else was able to sustain for four years.”
Martin’s accomplishments made him an easy choice for his second News and Tribune Swimmer of the Year honor.
“That means a lot,” he said. “It proves that [Gast’s] system works. I’m glad I went to Jeff High and that my career was here. It’s a little surreal [being the most decorated swimmer], but I’m glad I was able to do the best I can with the time I was given.”
Floyd Central coach Joe Perkins said Martin’s resume is remarkable.
“Those types of things don’t typically happen for boys because they tend to mature later,” Perkins said. “He’s had quite a career.”
After finishing a close third in the 50-yard freestyle as a junior, Martin entered his senior year with aspirations of being Jeff’s first boys’ state champion since Hesen. Despite missing that goal by .16 in the 50, Martin said he can hold his head high following his final prep swim.
“I’m happy with what I got,” Martin said. “I’m glad that I did as well as I did. Overall, I was pleased with it. I dropped time in everything I swam.”
“Competing against him was a headache,” Perkins said. “He’s capable of doing whatever he sets his mind to. It’s been fun competing against him. He raised the level for our kids over four years at Jeff High.”
Martin led the championship heat in the state finals for 40 of the 50 yards. In the end, Zionsville’s Kyle DeCoursey and Penn’s Mate Kovacs outraced the Red Devil star to the wall.
“They out-touched me,” Martin said. “If anything, it means that I have to work that much harder, so in college it doesn’t happen.”
“When sectionals started, there were probably 650 kids in the 50 free and T got third,” Jeff coach Keith Gast said. “If ever there was a kid I really wanted to see him get that state title, he certainly was it.”
Martin is ready for the next stage of his career in Bloomington. He intends to enroll in classes and start training at Indiana once the school year ends.
“I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “I’m hoping that if I work as hard as a can, at some point I can win an NCAA championship [as an individual] and be on an NCAA championship team.”
“I think he’s going to have a great career at IU,” Gast said. “I hope they get him stronger and faster and maybe he gets an NCAA championship or a Big Ten title.”
In high school, Martin swam all four freestyle events and succeeded at all of them. It has not been determined which events he will swim at Indiana.
“It’s really up to the coaches,” Martin said. “I can swim anything from the 50 to the 5K. I’m the multipurpose guy, so when I get up there, we’ll find out where I fit it. It doesn’t matter to me as long as it’s freestyle.”
Martin’s protégé, Hesen, came incredibly close to being on Olympian in 2008 and 2012. Martin believes he has a shot at making the team in Tokyo.
“I’d love to make it in the Olympics,” Martin said. “It would be rather difficult to make it in 2016, but I hope that 2020 proves to be my year.”
“I think he has the tools and the mindset to take the next step,” Gast said. “The specialty of college coaches is to take great kids and make them awesome. I know IU did wonders for Ben. I think [Martin becoming an Olympian] is within the realm of possibility.”
NEWS AND TRIBUNE 2013-14 ALL-AREA TEAM
T Martin, Jeffersonville senior (Swimmer of the Year)
Eli Anderson, Floyd Central junior
Zach Griffis, Jeffersonville senior
Colin Lyell, Floyd Central senior
Marc McCormick, Floyd Central junior
Tyler Sariscsany, Jeffersonville senior
Evan Shive, Jeffersonville junior
Michael Cain, Jeffersonville sophomore
Zach Dailey, Jeffersonville senior
Sean Kennedy, Jeffersonville senior
Evan Lopez, Jeffersonville senior
Nathan Manias, Floyd Central senior
Brendon Smith, Floyd Central sophomore
Max Weidekamp, Jeffersonville senior
Tanner Allen, Floyd Central; Grant Anderson, Floyd Central; Noah Boone, New Albany; Hayden Brodfehrer, Floyd Central; Matt Byrnes, Floyd Central; Sam Cleveland, Floyd Central; Ben Doss, Jeffersonville; Alex Epps, Floyd Central; Brady Faust, New Albany; Kevin Gast, Jeffersonville; Adam McGaren, New Albany; Drake Miller, New Albany; Cameron Simcoe, Jeffersonville; Jacob Stacey, Jeffersonville.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Keith Gast, Jeffersonville