Behind strong finishes by senior Zach Blankenbeker and sophomore T Martin, the Jeffersonville boys’ swimming and diving team placed seventh at the IHSAA State Finals at the Indiana University Natatorium on Saturday.
The finish fell just short of Jeffersonville’s best finish in history, a sixth-place run in 1976. But Jeff coach Keith Gast said he’s happy to take seventh.
“These kids, this senior class, as freshmen we were 42nd. As sophomores, I don’t even know, we were maybe 24th, 25th,” Gast said. “Last year, they were 11th and this year they were seventh. Back-to-back sectional championships, three years of (Hoosier Hills Conference) championships. So for me to stand around and mope about sixth place or seventh place, 1976 or 2012, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to take anything away from these kids.”
Blankenbeker gave the Red Devils their best placing with a second-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle, earning 17 of Jeffersonville’s 110 points.
“The 500 is just a big determination race. It’s about the guy who has the most guts,” Blankenbeker said. “Today, I just felt like I was the guy with the most guts.”
Making Blankenbeker’s finish even more impressive was the manner in which he raced the event. Blankenbeker was behind every other swimmer in the pool as the race reached its halfway point, but was able to gut through the second half to take second.
“He did what we call a negative split. The second 250 yards was actually faster than the first 250 yards,” Gast explained. “That’s pretty tough to do, but it was something we had talked about. We talked about controlling his race at the beginning and he was in eighth place at 200. I think he was seventh place at 250. But we talked about being comfortable in the middle of the race and knowing where you were, and he executed that game plan to perfection.”
Blankenbeker finished the race in a time of 4:35.54, bettering his preliminary time of 4:38.49. It was a personal best for the Jeff senior.
“We came in here knowing that we tapered for this meet,” Blankenbeker said. “We had kind of gambled a little bit because we didn’t shave until this morning. But it really paid off in the end because we saw those big time drops and really came in here and kicked some butt.”
Blankenbeker established another personal best in the 200 free, where he took fourth place. Again, Blankenbeker was able to drop significant time, coming down from his preliminary finish of 1:42.25 to 1:40.60.
Martin also had a great day, finishing fourth in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. Martin’s time of 21.04 seconds in the 50 free was just .25 off the winning time of 20.79, swam by Adam Johnston of Highland.
“Those are traditionally events that are dominated by seniors, so he’s obviously swimming really well,” Gast said. “He’s got another two years, and quite honestly by Monday morning — really, by the time we get back on the bus today — the mantle of leadership switches to him. Where this was Zach’s team for two years, and then he’s kind of shared it with T, this becomes T’s team Monday morning. I’m anxious to see what he does with the rest of the sophomores and juniors, and see what we can build around him.”
Jeffersonville also scored points in the 200 and 400 free relays. The 200 free team placed eighth with a time of 1:26.45, while the 400 free team improved from preliminaries to the final heat with a 3:09.39, good for sixth.
Both teams consisted of Blankenbeker, Martin, Ty Arthur and Austin Smith. The relay teams broke school records in both events during the preliminaries, while the 400 free relay squad improved again to break a Jeff record twice in two days.
“At that point, that’s the fastest they’ve ever swam together,” Gast said. “That’s the fastest any team at Jeff High has ever swam. It’s really tough to be disappointed.”
Floyd Central’s Oscar Anderson was able to make the championship heat in the 200 individual medley, finishing eighth. Anderson took 11th in the 100 backstroke after qualifying for the consolation heat.
“I envisioned myself a lot lower down,” Anderson said. “I didn’t think I’d make it back for the finals in anything. I did a lot better than I thought I would this season.”
Anderson’s road to the championship heat in the 200 IM posed a surprising challenge. Anderson tied with Carmel’s Mitch Cooper and had to return to the pool for a swim-off to determine the final spot in the championship. Cooper was faster than Anderson in the swim-off, but it was determined that the Carmel swimmer was using dolphin kicks under the water on his breaststroke. Anderson was the beneficiary of Cooper’s disqualification.
“It was a very good swim for him (Friday) night, and the time drops that he had and the way he swam that race,” Floyd coach Joe Perkins said. “He had to come back and swim it twice. For him to get in the finals today was a very big mental step up for him.”
Fellow Highlander Dylan Nichols placed 31st in the diving event. The top 24 divers moved on to the semifinals.
IHSAA STATE FINALS
at Indiana University Natatorium, Indianapolis
200 free — 4. Blankenbeker (Jeff), 1:40.60.
200 IM — 8. Anderson (FC), 1:57.57.
50 free — 4. Anderson (Jeff), 21.04.
Diving — 31. Nichols (FC).
100 fly — 18. Lete (NA), 52.95.
100 free — 4. Martin (Jeff), 46.16.
500 free — 2. Blankenbeker (Jeff), 4:35.54.
200 free relay — 8. Jeffersonville (Martin, Arthur, Smith, Blankenbeker), 1:26.45.
100 back — 11. Anderson (FC), 53.03.
100 breast — 28. Hennegan (Jeff), 1:01.23.
400 free relay — 6. Jeffersonville (Martin, Arthur, Smith, Blankenbeker), 3:09.39.