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Clark County Sports

February 21, 2013

H.S. BOYS' SWIMMING: State finals preview

Slovakian Schmuck gives Jeff shot at returning to top 10

INDIANAPOLIS — At tonight’s and Saturday’s boys’ swimming state finals, the 2013 Jeffersonville team will be competing against the 2012 Red Devils.

Jeff finished seventh at last year’s state finals at IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis. Beginning tonight, the Devils will be shooting at finishing sixth or better and topping last year’s performance.

“These guys look up at that No. 7 every day,” Jeffersonville head coach Keith Gast said of the banner hanging for last year’s seventh-place finish. “We talked about at the beginning of the season wanting to equal that No. 7 or even better. That’s definitely a team goal.”

“We want to place higher [than seventh] or at least score more points than we did last year,” Red Devil junior Timothy “T” Martin said.

After losing Zach Blankenbeker, who’s swimming West Point, Ty Arthur and Austin Smith, Jeff repeating a top-10 finish seemed unlikely in 2012-13.

That was before the arrival of Slovakian exchange student Karol Schmuck.

Schmuck was a water polo player in his native Slovakia. With polo being unavailable in Southern Indiana, Schmuck joined an already talented Red Devil squad.

His impact was immediate.

“I was contacted in the summer and was told there was a kid with a water polo background who was looking for a chance to swim on a team,” Gast recalled. “I was thinking, 1-in-100 maybe he has some talent and can help us out. From the beginning of the season, we saw that he had speed. He’s become a heck of a racer. It’s been a blessing to have him.”

“The moment he jumped in the pool, he was incredibly fast,” Martin said of Schmuck. “His technique was a little off, but he’s extremely powerful, which makes him a great sprinter.”

Schmuck said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the Southern Indiana sports landscape. Although he preferred to play water polo, he was happy to have swimming available.

“I just played water polo. I know how to swim, but I didn’t know about swimming competition, the stop, the turns,” Schmuck said. “At first, I wasn’t that concerned with swimming, but after a while, I got into it.”

After winning the sectional title on Saturday, Schmuck will compete in the 100-yard freestyle as an individually in tonight’s preliminaries. Perhaps more importantly, he will try to help the 200 medley relay, the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 free relay teams earn high finishes.

“He really, really helps us on the relays,” Martin said. “Without Karol, we’d have slower guys on all of our relays and we’d lose that individual 100 freestyle spot. [Tyler Sariscsany] likely would have won [the 100 freeestyle in the sectional], but he’s not as fast as Karol. So yeah, our chances [of repeating last year’s success] went up with Karol.”

“I’m more concerned with the relays than my individual swim,” Schmuck said. “We have a better chance of placing higher in the relays and [having] team success.”

“We think we can have at least two relays in the top 8 and maybe a third in the top 16,” Gast projected.

Obviously, Schmuck has no experience at an Indiana state finals. However, he attended the girls’ state meet three weeks ago and that gave him some perspective.

“I would like to drop some time and get top 16, maybe eight,” Schmuck said.

“I think he can go 47.5 or 47.4. If he does that, he’ll have a second swim [on Saturday] in the 100 free,” Gast predicted.

Martin came into the season as one of the favorites to challenge for a freestyle state championship. He’ll compete in the 50 and 500 freestyle. He believes he’ll be in the mix for Jeff’s first title since Ben Hesen won the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke in 2004, but with swimmers like Trevor Carroll of South Bend St. Joseph’s and Chesterton’s Ethan Whitaker in the mix, Martin may be a longshot.

“You can never guarantee anything. There are so many variables,” Martin assessed. “I believe I’ll do well. Whether I win a state championship just depends on how I feel. I’ve got a chance. I wouldn’t say it’s a really good chance.”

Martin is swimming in the 50 free tonight despite finishing second to New Albany’s Luke Lete at the sectional. It was a rare defeat for Martin, but Gast said it’s not a big concern.

“Luke Lete is just a phenomenal swimmer and had a great swim on Saturday,” Gast said. “I think a lot of people are thinking, ‘Oh-oh, what’s happened to T?’ Nothing’s happened to T. He’s right where he want him to be. I fully expect him to break 21 [seconds] on Friday and be in the top 8. I certainly think he’ll be in the top 8 in the 500. Then he’ll come back on Saturday and race for titles.”

Sophomore Evan Shive will be swimming in two events at the state meet despite not winning the sectional title at either event. The Jeff sophomore met the state time requirement to qualify for tonight’s 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke.

“I was more excited than I’ve ever been,” Shive said of earning state cuts in both events. “[In Thursday’s preliminaries], I didn’t really drop any time, so Saturday I went all in and dropped my best times by more than two seconds.”

Shive is seeded eighth in the backstroke — surprisingly Jeff’s top individual seed — and 20th in the butterfly, and he believes that the sectional was just the beginning of his blazing times.

“I want to try to see if I can go even faster and see if I can get back to Saturday,” Shive said.

“We’re real excited about Evan,” Gast said. “If he can maintain those [sectional] times, it will be an awesome time for a sophomore to do [at state].”

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