By MATT KOESTERS
Jeffersonville’s Zach Blankenbeker has been named the News and Tribune Area Swimmer of the Year.
Blankenbeker, a senior, earned runner-up honors in the 500 free at the IHSAA Boys’ Swimming and Diving State Championship meet at Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis on Saturday. He also placed fourth in the 200 free and anchored top-eight 200-free and 400-free relay teams.
But Blankenbeker’s individual accomplishments are just one aspect of what he’s meant to Jeffersonville. According to Jeff coach Keith Gast, Blankenbeker was the architect of the team that won the Hoosier Hills Conference and the Floyd Central Sectional.
“His whole career, he’s been focused on what he can do to help lead,” Gast said. “When he was a freshman and sophomore, he knew that he wasn’t going to be a team captain, but he also knew that the expectations were there to be a leader through example, work hard, come to practice.”
Blankenbeker helped build the Jeffersonville boys’ swimming and diving team by working the hallways at Jeff High, recruiting fellow students to join the team.
“Ty Arthur, John Davis and Glenn Callis — those guys are all friends of his,” Gast said. “He beat the halls and said, ‘Come out and swim and join the team.’ He’s helped build the numbers from within like that.”
The swimming community was forced to take notice of the strides Blankenbeker’s Red Devils made more recently. Jeff placed seventh in the state, just one place off of the school’s best finish. The 1976 team placed sixth.
“I’m always impressed with a kid that swims the 200 and 500 (free),” Floyd Central coach Joe Perkins said. “He’s had that title for the past four years over there (at Jeffersonville), and obviously, he’s done fairly well at the state meet in both those events. Those being the longest events in our meets, there’s a very high level of determination for him to continue to compete and continue to improve in those events.”
Blankenbeker dedicated his swims on Saturday at the state meet to his grandmother, Betty Blankenbeker, who he described as swimming’s No. 1 fan in Indiana in the 70s.
“I know she’s watching now up in heaven,” Blankenbeker said.
ALL-AREA BOYS’ SWIMMING AND DIVING TEAM
Zach Blankenbeker, Jeffersonville*
T. Martin, Jeffersonville
Oscar Anderson, Floyd Central
Luke Lete, New Albany
Lucas Hennegan, Jeffersonville
Ty Arthur, Jeffersonville
Kyle Crater, Floyd Central
Evan Shive, Jeffersonville
Austin Smith, Jeffersonville
John Davis, Jeffersonville
Dylan Nichols, Floyd Central
Connor Richardson, Jeffersonville**
* Area Swimmer of the Year
** Area Diver of the Year