JEFFERSONVILLE — This Saturday’s IHSAA Boys’ Swimming and Diving State Tournament Meet at Indiana University Natatorium comes with high expectations for the Jeffersonville swim team.
Fresh off of a win at the Floyd Central Sectional in which the Red Devils claimed first place in nine of 12 events, the Jeffersonville team is eyeing a top-10 finish at the state meet.
Jeff swimmer John Davis narrowly missed the cut in the 200 free, but the Red Devils will bring a lot of talent to Indianapolis this weekend.
Zach Blankenbeker and T Martin carry the highest expectations coming into the meet for Jeff, but Evan Shive, Lucas Hennegan, Austin Smith and Ty Arthur must also score points in relay events for the Red Devils to reach their goals.
Getting to the state meet means different things to different swimmers, Jeffersonville coach Keith Gast said.
“For some, it means everything,” Gast said. “John Davis not getting there. Evan Shive and Lucas Hennegan working these past several years ... just to be a state qualifier (this season). For others, Zach and T, Austin and Ty, it means fulfilling their goals, a step towards a bigger goal. They have had the excitement of calling themselves state qualifiers. Now they want to get in those final heats and have a shot at calling themselves state champions.”
Blankenbeker, a senior, is set to swim in two individual events and two relay events. He’s seeded 12th in the 200 free and 21st in the 500 free, but Gast says those numbers hardly represent what Blankenbeker will do at state.
“Zach was fifth in the 200 and third in the 500 last year,” Gast pointed out. “While his sectional times don’t have him seeded that high going into Friday night (for qualifiers), we never planned for them to be. Zach is an experienced, big-meet swimmer and he knows how to and when to give his best performances.”
Jeffersonville also has high hopes for Martin, a sophomore swimming in the 50 free, the 100 free and both freestyle relays.
Martin is already projected to see action on Saturday, currently seeded seventh in the 100 free and ninth in the 50 free.
“Last year as a freshman, T gave huge performances at the sectional meet in both of those events,” Gast said. “When we got to state, he swam like a freshman in a big meet — a little timid, and a little off his best.”
Despite the off day, Martin was still able to score at state, finishing sixth in the 50 and 10th in the 100.
“This year he swam through the sectional a little more controlled, and I think he will have his best meet this weekend,” Gast predicted.
The Red Devils will compete in all three of the state meet’s relays. The 200-free and 400-free teams will include Martin, Blankenbeker, Arthur and Smith. Gast calls the two relays his team’s “hammers.”
“When we have needed big swims — Hall of Fame Classic, (Hoosier Hills) Conference, IUPUI Invitational, St. (Xavier) — they have come through,” Gast said. “This past weekend at sectional, our goal was to stay on the block on exchanges, swim fast enough to get in the top 20 and that was it.
“For the first time in my coaching career I am taking two relays with four guys that are shaved and rested for the state meet. Usually in the past it has been one or two at the most, like our medley relay this year. But this year we think all four guys will come out firing and we should see some spectacular times.”
The 200-medley relay will consist of Shive, Hennegan, Smith and Arthur. Gast has hopes that the relay will make the second day, and he hopes that sacrifices Smith and Arthur made to get the team there pay off.
“Austin and Ty sacrificed an individual swim at sectional so they could swim all three relays. In addition, they agreed to shave and rest for the state meet,” Gast said. “This was a sacrifice for them, as they were likely to have qualified for state individually if they had been shaved and rested for the sectional.”
While Hennegan and Shive are being asked to give the same kind of effort at the state meet, Gast wants more from his seniors.
“We are asking Lucas and Evan to hold on to their sectional splits and we think Austin and Ty can give us more on the relay,” Gast said. “We are pushing our relay starts more in practice and we think we can drop some time there as well.”
Unfortunately for Jeff, diver Connor Richardson did not make it to the state meet after placing 13th in the Bloomington North Regional Tuesday.
However, Floyd Central’s Dylan Nichols does move on. Nichols took fifth at Bloomington North with a score of 374.05.
“He had a great regional meet and dove the best he has all season,” Floyd Central coach Joe Perkins said.
Nichols moves on to his first state meet after placing 12th at the regional last season.
“It has been his goal all year to get to this meet,” Perkins said. “It is very important to him and first-year diving coach Shea Weathers to get to the state meet. He has been very consistent throughout the season and diving his best at the end of the season.”
Nichols, a junior, needs to place at least 20th to get through the first cut.
“It is a great opportunity as a junior to get here and gives him a shot at scoring as a senior,” Perkins added.
Nichols will join fellow Highlander Oscar Anderson, who will swim in the 200 IM and the 100 back.
“Oscar has been pushing for the state meet since the last high school state meet,” Perkins said. “He has been very consistent this season with his 200 IM.”
Anderson will need to push harder to make it to the second day. The state meet races the top 16 swimmers from qualifiers during the second day, and Anderson is seeded 17th in the 100 back and 28th in the 200 IM. But Perkins thinks that Anderson can make it.
“Both of his swims at sectional looked very controlled and had even splits,” Perkins said, “which makes me think he will drop time again this week.”
New Albany swimmer Luke Lete is seeded 29th in the 100 fly.
IHSAA STATE SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIP
Psych Sheet Seedings
200-medley Relay — Jeffersonville (Shive, Hennegan, Smith, Arthur) 23rd
200 free — Zach Blankenbaker (Jeff) 12th
200 IM — Oscar Anderson (FC) 28th
50 free — T Martin (Jeff) 9th
100 fly — Luke Lete (NA) 29th
100 free — T Martin (Jeff) 7th
500 free — Zach Blankenbeker (Jeff) 21st
200-free relay — Jeffersonville (Martin, Arthur, Smith, Blankenbeker) 16th
100 back — Oscar Anderson (FC) 17th
100 breast — Lucas Hennegan (Jeff) 30th
400-free relay — Jeffersonville (Martin, Arthur, Smith, Blankenbeker) 18th
Note: Dylan Nichols placed fifth at the Bloomington North Diving Regional on Tuesday, and will compete at the state meet.