By GREG MENGELT
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].”
ANDERSON, CRATER FAST FOR FLOYD
Floyd Central senior Oscar Anderson had two top-8 finishes a year ago when he was fourth in the 100 backstroke and eighth in the 200 individual medley.
Anderson believes he can repeat last year’s performance and perhaps best it this weekend.
“I want to return to the top 4,” Anderson said. “Winning a state championship has crossed my mind. Maybe, hopefully, if the absolute best scenario possible happens, but I’m not going to think that if I don’t win a state championship, I’m going to be depressed about it.”
He also believes competing in last year’s finals in two events gives him an advantage over most of the rest of the field.
“I think that will be an advantage, especially over last year, with this being my second year doing individual events,” Anderson assessed. “It’s a big advantage over someone who’s never been before, because nerves are less likely to get the better of you.”
“His focus has been on both of those events all year,” Perkins said of Anderson. “He swam faster than he did last year at the state meet at [this year’s] sectional. And we haven’t pulled out all the stops yet. I think both of those events, he has a legitimate top-8 shot. And he has some lofty time goals. I think we’ll see those on Friday night and I expect him to swim well on Saturday.”
Fellow Floyd senior Kyle Crater outswam a tough sectional field to win the 200 freestyle title in 1:46.07 at Saturday’s sectional. He’ll be making his first appearance at state in an individual event tonight and he believes he can make it back to Saturday’s final round.
“My goal is to make it back to the top 16 and place as well as I can,” Crater said.
“I expect him to make it back [to Saturday’s top 16] and I expect him to go 1:43 or faster,” Anderson said of his expectations of Crater.
It’s unlikely that Crater — seeded 26th in the 200 freestyle — has reached his potential. All season, he’s been at a disadvantage having to swim back-to-back events in the 200 medley relay and the 200 free. This weekend, that won’t be the case.
“He doesn’t have to swim the medley relay right before the 200 free,” Perkins said. “I think he’ll be a little fresher. I think we can squeeze a little more out of him.”
Floyd finished second to Jeff in the 400 freestyle relay at Saturday’s sectional but qualified for state on time. The Highlanders will be racing to return on Saturday and become the best 400 relay team in Floyd Central history.
“I would like to make it back and break the [school] record of 3:12,” Anderson said.
“I really hope to go up there and swim even a bit faster,” Perkins said. “We’re going in seeded 21st. If they drop time, they have a shot at getting into the top 16. Oscar we know will be faster, and the other three, we expect to be faster than they were [at the sectional].”
FOURTH TRIP FOR LETE
Lete won the 100 butterfly for the fourth time at Saturday’s sectional, and thus, will swim at state for the fourth straight year in his favorite event.
Lete also upset Martin in the 50 freestyle, giving him two opportunities for high finishes at state.
The Bulldog senior is seeded 6th in the 50 free and 15th in the 100 fly.
“I just want to go up there and do my best and try to have fun with it, and hopefully make it back to Saturday,” Lete said. “I’d really like to be in the top 8. That would be a good goal.”
Beating Martin, who finished fourth at state in the 50 free last year, makes Lete believes he can compete with anyone at the state level.
“I like to think if I go there and swim my race, I can compete at a top level,” Lete said.
AT IUPUI NATATORIUM, INDIANAPOLIS
(Top 8 qualify for Saturday’s championship heat; 9-16 qualify for Saturday’s state consolation heat.)
200 medley relay — Jeffersonville: Evan Shive, Josh Phelps, T Martin and Karol Schmuck (seeded 14th, 19th last year).
200 freestyle — Kyle Crater, Floyd Central (26th).
200 IM — Oscar Anderson, Floyd Central (seeded 18th, finished 8th last year).
50 freestyle — Luke Lete, New Albany (seeded 6th); T Martin, Jeffersonville (seeded 18th, finished fourth last year).
1-meter diving — Dylan Nichols, Floyd Central (seeded 16th).
100 butterfly — Luke Lete, New Albany (seeded 15th, finished 18th last year); Evan Shive, Jeffersonville (seeded 20th).
100 freestyle — Karol Schmuck, Jeffersonville (seeded 26th).
500 freestyle — T Martin, Jeffersonville (seeded 22nd).
200 freestyle relay — Jeffersonville: Alec McAtee, Karol Schmuck, Josh Phelps, Zach Krininger (seeded 15th, finished 8th last year).
100 backstroke — Oscar Anderson, Floyd Central (seeded 4th, finished 11th last year); Evan Shive, Jeffersonville (seeded 8th).
400 freestyle relay — Jeffersonville: T Martin, Karol Schmuck, Josh Phelps, Evan Shive (seeded 13th, finished 6th last year); Floyd Central: Oscar Anderson, Kyle Crater, Eli Anderson, Brendon Smith (seeded 21st).