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January 23, 2013

POOLSIDE: Lete thriving despite being New Albany’s lone contender

Bulldog senior will attempt to get to state for fourth straight year

NEW ALBANY — Saturday’s Hoosier Hills Conference meet will likely come down to Jeffersonville, Floyd Central and possibly host Bedford North Lawrence.

With its numbers, New Albany won’t be in the mix.

But there’s one Bulldog certain to be in the mix. Two-time HHC champion Luke Lete will go for his third conference crown on Saturday in the 100-yard butterfly and his fourth in the 50 freestyle. Lete is the top seed again in the butterfly and the No. 3 seed in the 50.

“It’s my last conference meet, so I’d like to do well,” Lete said.

Lete has been part of a New Albany program that has suffered in numbers and talent the past three years. Since the graduation of Evan Truman three years ago, Lete has been, in essence, a swimmer on his own.

There has been no one on his level to push him in practice. No one beside him to motivate him. Despite the situation, he’s continued to thrive.

“He’s been at a real disadvantage since his freshman year,” New Albany coach Dutch Vigar admitted. “He’s not had any competition on the team. The numbers have gotten progressively smaller and the talent has gotten progressively lesser. Really, he’s always going against the clock. To me, that takes a lot of self-motivation. It takes a lot of dedication to be constantly going against the clock.

“It’s real helpful if you have someone you’re going against at practice every day. He’s not had that for three years now.”

Lete said being the only contender on his team has been tough, but he’s learned to deal with the situation as it is.

“I used to have a lot more fun and I kind of lost that,” Lete said. “I’m the only senior, so I haven’t had anyone to pair with. When I was younger, I had upper classmen to train with and look up to. As they’ve graduated, I’ve had to [train] on my own. I’m trying to get back to having fun with it and just enjoying it more.”

Lete admitted that sometimes he looks at the bigger, more successful Jeffersonville and Floyd programs with envy. More than that, however, he wishes the New Albany program could get more students to come out to swim.

Having a veteran coach and one of the most successful New Albany girls’ senior classes in history beside him at practice every day has also helped.

“I’m sure it would be great to be a part of [a better team],” Lete said, “but I’ve learned a lot about myself — through Dutch and even the girls, the six or seven of them I’ve swam with as long as I can remember. I do wish we had more people come out and swim, but I have to do what I have to do.”

What Lete has done is win the 100 butterfly sectional championship the past three seasons. Although he says nothing is certain, he will likely go for a fourth title in the butterfly again at the Floyd Central Sectional on Feb. 14 and 16.

The other event he’ll swim has yet to be determined. It could be the 50 freestyle, the 100 free or the 100 backstroke.

“I don’t know yet,” Lete said. “I’m trying to keep my options open. I’ll see what’s best for me at sectional and even — if I move on — at the state meet. The decision will be based on what I can do best in going forward. I’ve been trying to swim everything to get a basis. I’m subject to change.”

“It’s really kind of his choice,” Vigar said. “Obviously, you want to place as high as you can in what you choose to swim. I think his best shot [of reaching the state meet] is the 100 butterfly. It appears — based on the conference seedings — that he’ll have more competition in the 50 free, the 100 free or the 100 back. Really it’s going to be a matter of seeing what the outcome is in the conference meet.”

Lete has been in the state meet for the past three seasons and is a favorite to get there again. However, his top finish at state is 18th last year. He would love to get into the top-16 this season and qualify for the second day of the state finals at IUPUI on Feb. 23.

Last year’s 18th-place finish was up from 25th in 2011 and 29th in 2010.

“My goal is to do the best I can do and hopefully make it back to Saturday,” Lete said.

“I want to see him get in the top 16,” Vigar said. “He’s been to state the last three years. Going is one thing. Qualifying [for the final round] is another thing. And he hasn’t done that yet. That’s what I hope for him. That will help his chances of getting a scholarship and I know he wants to swim at the next level.”

Lete said he’s applied to and been accepted at Indiana and Purdue. He’d like to attend one or the other, but he’d also like to swim in college.

A strong finish to his senior season could make both dreams come true.

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