By Joe Spaulding
By my own admission, I've not been to a lot of swim meets over the years.
That admitted fact by no means, however, lessens the respect that I have for the male and female athletes who train for hours--some of whom at the swimming machines in the state go most every day--to find the secret of cutting a couple of tenths of a second off their previous best times.
Swimming has always struck me as an individual sport. The kid splashing his way through the 500 freestyle has no one but himself to get to the end. He can't stop and take a breather say around the 350 meter mark if he wants a rest. A coach can't tell him how to block or screen an opponent. It's a lot of repetition, practicing their turns, getting in the right position on their dive, things like that.
My first team experience came when I was a student at Bellmont--a long time ago or as some would say "back in the day." I obviously was not a swimmer but had a teacher who had been on the water polo team at Indiana University. I'd bring copies of the Indiana Daily Student (IU school paper) with me to school for him to read articles about the polo and swim team. I think he took pity on me and it helped me pass freshman science.
He explained the mentality of a swimmer to me, the long hours in the pool, the EARLY morning hours when kids hit the pool. Two-a-day practices for them usually started with the first session around 5 a.m. I had at least two hours more sleep at that time of the day.
The Bellmont program was run successfully for many years by Mark Young. The Braves and Squaws experienced a lot of highs during his 20-plus year tenure. Now the program is in the hands of Drew Norby, an individual the kids enjoy swimming for and who is just as dedicated as Young was.
This past season, especially for the Braves, was a big success but the days of Bellmont competing toe-to-toe with the Homesteads and the Carmels, well, we probably won't see them. Those are programs with hugely successful because the kids swim almost every day and feed off of very strong summer and club programs. Plus they have the numbers.
Norby had a handful of swimmers this year but they were dedicated to swimming. Unlike many other sports where the kids play two or three seasons a year, many of Norby's swimmers do just that--swimming. That success and determination led to the Braves capturing their first sectional title since 1980--how many of you were even alive at that time because none of this years' swimmers were.
That championship led to Bellmont sending five boys to the State Finals in Indianapolis at the IUPUI Natatorium, the site of many Olympic qualifiers and other national meets. I won't presume to understand what Michael Miller, Zac Torrey, Jay Watters, Mason Werling and Mason Schultz felt when they jumped off the blocks during their race but will assume it's an experience they'll remember for the rest of the lives.
There are a ton of kids who never get to experience that thrill. Kids who practice just as hard, just as long.
The 200 freestyle relay team (Watters, Schultz, Torrey, and Miller) and the 400 freestyle relay team (Watters, Werling, Torrey, and Miller) set new school records for Bellmont at the State Finals. They'll be able to walk into the BHS pool area and look up at the record board to see their name--at least until another dedicated group comes along and erases the current mark.
Norby noted the sectional wins for the relay teams were planned so the swimmers "were careful with our starts so that they would not be disqualified and lose important team points. This weekend (at the Finals) we pushed our starts and reset the school records. The team completed a wonderful year by having a great state swim meet. Our seniors had their last swims be the best in school history."
I'm told that suits worn by the swimmers can affect their time as does shaving. I don't understand those effects but Norby and the Braves do. They proved it in the pool this year. Individually--event by event.