By GREG MENGELT
Before the season, Jeffersonville’s boys’ swim team set a goal of bettering last year’s seventh-place finish in the state finals.
After losing three outstanding swimmers, including Zach Blankenbeker, the goal seemed far fetched to most.
In the end, Jeff wasn’t able to better last year’s seventh place finish. Instead, the 2012-13 Devils equaled last year’s squad with back-to-back seventh-place finishes.
“I’m really happy about that,” said junior Timothy “T” Martin, who had finishes of third, fifth and two sixths. “I wish I could have gone a little bit faster in my individual events and maybe gotten sixth for the team. But all-in-all, it was a good meet. Most people didn’t think we’d be able to tie what we did last year.”
“A year ago, when we lost Ty [Arthur] and Austin Smith and Zach, I didn’t think another top-10 finish was realistic,” Jeff coach Keith Gast admitted. “I’ll take a top-10 finish any time. This is a fast state with a lot of good teams and seventh place ... that’s pretty good.”
Chesterton ended Carmel’s three-year reign as state champions, breaking four state records along the way. North Central finished second and the Greyhounds were third. Penn finished fourth and Hamilton Southeastern was fifth.
Jeff had a chance to move up to sixth in the final event. Heading into the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Red Devils only had to finish ahead of Columbus North to wrestle sixth away from the Bull Dogs.
The Devils led North through three legs but Bull Dog junior Cody Taylor — a state champion in the 100 breaststroke — passed Jeff’s Evan Shive and North Central’s Joseph Krahulik in the final 25 yards to secure sixth overall for North.
Despite a school-record 3:09.35, Jeff fell just short of beating last year’s team result.
“We were well aware of North and where they were,” Gast said. “We knew that was somebody we were competing with, trying to get sixth in the meet. The 3:09 was a phenomenally fast time. Sometimes you have to say somebody swam fast and congratulations.”
Martin swam the opening leg of the 400 relay and was second at the end of his 100 yards. Jeff was still in second after Slovakian exchange student Karol Schmuck’s leg and was third after Josh Phelps’ third leg.
“I tried to race as hard as I can,” said Martin, who set the school record with a 45.6 leadoff leg. “I was hoping it would be enough [to hold off North]. They were just a little faster than some of our guys.”
Jeff opened the day with a sixth-place finish in the 200 medley relay in 1:34.70. In his first of three swims, Shive got the Devils off to a fourth-place start after the backstroke and Schmuck — in his first of four Saturday swims — moved Jeff from seventh to sixth with a 21.11 anchor-leg freestyle swim.
The 1:34.7 was one of six school records the Red Devils set over the weekend.
“We hoped at the beginning of the year that we could break 1:36,” Gast said. “We thought if we broke 1:36, we’d be in good position to be in the top-8. We went 1:35 last night and thought that was as fast as we could go. [The 1:34.7] is a really fast school record to try to go after now.”
Martin’s first individual swim came in the 50 freestyle, where he was seeded second. Martin was in first place at the turn, but he was passed by Northridge’s Austin Flager and Batesville’s Bryce Timonera in the final 25 yards and placed third in 20.93.
“That’s usually how I do the 50. My flip turns and underwater kicks just aren’t as strong as some other people,” Martin admitted. “I’m going to work over the summer to get my underwater kick up to par with some of these people and give myself a chance [to win it next year].”
“Right after the race, we talked about we need to work on the turn a little bit more,” Gast evaluated. “I expect next year it will be a little better.”
New Albany’s Luke Lete, who beat Martin to win the sectional championship in the 50 freestyle a week ago, earned a career-best seventh-place finish in 21.30
“It wasn’t my best time,” Lete acknowledged. “But I’m pleased that I made it to the finals. Obviously, you always want to do better, but I’m happy with what I’ve done.”
Lete had made four trips to the state finals in the 100 butterfly, but he switched from the backstroke to the 50 free in the middle of the season.
“If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that I would have made the finals in the 50 free at state, I would have thought you were joking,” said Lete, who also finished 18th in the butterfly on Friday.
“His preference is the 100 fly and the backstroke, but he just wasn’t getting the job done in the 100 back,” New Albany coach Dutch Vigar said of Lete. “He’s strong in the water and I figured the 50 was his best option. We decided it was the thing to do and here we are.”
After swimming a strong 50 free, Martin overswam the 500. Trying to keep up with the pace set by Bloomington North’s Max Irwin, South Bend St. Joseph’s Trevor Carroll and Chesterton’s Ethan Whitaker, Martin wore himself down in the first half of the race. He finished sixth but was four seconds slower than Friday’s school-record 4:31.75 preliminary.
“I tried to keep up with them and I probably shouldn’t have done that,” Martin admitted. “I paid the price for going out too fast.”
Jeff got a bit of a break in the 200 free relay. The most inexperienced Red Devil relay — Alec McAtee, Zach Krininger, Phelps and Schmuck — was seeded eighth and was fell short of Friday’s preliminary pace, but it finished seventh after Northridge was disqualified for a false start.
“We were willing to take whatever we could get,” Gast said. “The guys were a little off from what they were able to Friday night [1:26.88], but there was a DQ so they moved up.”
Floyd Central senior Oscar Anderson followed a pair of top-16 finishes a year ago with a career-best fifth place in the 100 backstroke on Saturday.
Anderson, who also placed 18th in the 200 individual medley Friday, finished the backstroke in 51.62 — just four seconds off Chesterton’s Aaron Whitaker’s state record of 47.29.
“I'm satisfied with it,” Anderson said. “I'm happy with fifth. Fifth is a nice way to finish.”
In the first final of his career, Shive followed Friday’s 20th-place finish in the 100 butterfly with an eighth in the backstroke.
“He was the surprise of the sectional,” Gast said of Shive. “He came in seeded eighth and held on to his seed. There’s a guy who had to do a lot just to get here, so we’re real happy with [eighth].”
Schmuck was Jeff’s lone consolation swimmer on Saturday. The water polo player was on all three Jeff relay teams and went 47.41 in the 100 freestyle for 11th in the state.
“For Karol to get four top-11 finishes, he had some great swims,” Gast said.
Schmuck and Phelps are the only state finalists Jeff will lose to graduation, so an encore performance a year from now will be expected.
Earlier Saturday, Floyd’s Dylan Nichols placed 19th in the 1-meter diving competition, falling just three spots short of making the final round.