By Owen V. Johnson
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, February 25. HAMILTON Southeastern won only one race, the medley relay, but the Royals scored points throughout the day to take their first ever Indiana state boys high school swimming title Saturday. In only one event did HSE not swim someone in the championship heat.
Ft. Wayne Concordia Lutheran's Tyler Lemert, who is headed for Indiana University, added to the meet excitement by breaking the state breaststroke record.
Coach Andy Pedersen's club rolled up 262 points to 235 for two-time defending champion North Central, the closest one-two margin since 1997. That's small enough that a relay DQ could have changed the results.
It wasn't just the team race that was close. So were many of the individual races.
Chesterton came third – its best ever state finish — with 193, followed by Carmel (157) and Homestead (154).
It was the first boys statewide title ever for HSE, although a much, much smaller school won the Class A football title in 1981. The girls won the golf title three years ago.
The Royal medley team of senior Jason Beyerl, juniors Derek Paul and Cameron Owen and freshman anchor Nathan Kinney posted a 1:34.72 winning team in a race that was neck and neck with runner-up Chesterton.
The Royals were runner-ups in the two other relays. Spencer Osborne, the anchor of the final 400-free relay team was selected winner of the Herman F. Keller Mental Attitude Award. Not only did he swim the relay, but he also was runner-up in the 100 and 200 freestyle. Next fall he'll swim for Notre Dame.
"Spencer is very in tune with team dynamics and uses his role as team captain to make a positive impact on not only the boys swim team but the entire swim program," Charles Hoover, school principal, said. Osborne is the third Royal winner of the award in the last seven years.
Pedersen was selected state coach of the year in a vote of his peers.
Lemert of Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran smashed a 15-year-old state high school breaststroke record Friday night with a prelim swim of 54.82. The old record was 55.33, set by Jeff Daniel of Chesterton in 1992.
"It's great knowing I was the best ever in Indiana," Lemert said in an interview with the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette's Stacy Clardie.
After going all out Friday night, Lemert simply tried to bring home the championship Saturday, and he did in 55.65.
It gave him his second state title as he had helped win the 200-freestyle relay two years ago.
On hand to watch Lemert swim was his brother Roy, paralyzed since a gunshot accident eight years ago. Since then they have inspired each other. (See the moving story in the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette about the pair.)
Freshman Kyle Whitaker of Chesterton raised his family's number of individual state swimming championships in the last two weeks to four by winning the individual medley in 1:49.43 and the butterfly in 50.16. Sister Taylor won the 100 and 200-yard freestyle titles two weeks ago and finished her high school career with six golds.
Whitaker's 200 IM title didn't come easily. He caught defending champion Mike Christy of North Central on the final 25 free.
"Kyle is one tough cookie," Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel told the Northwest Indiana Times. "He's pretty quiet, but his intensity level is absolutely incredible."
Kyle was more succinct.
"I was totally stoked," he said.
Whitaker raised the family's state title total to five by joining with Trojan teammates Albert Miller, Adam Thieling and Billy Bass to win the 400-free relay.
The South Bend Riley team of Zack Stockman, Danny Lucero-Dixon, Chris Pfaff and Eric Blue claimed the 200 free title in 1:26.14.
"I think of this win as the reward for three years of high school swimming, the 4:30 a.m. practices and two-a-day practices," Pfaff said in an interview with Bruce Marshall of the South Bend Tribune. Pfaff'll swim next fall at Purdue.
Ben Wachtel of Westfield kept up what has now happened four straight years at the state championships: Whoever wins the 200-free also claims the 100 free. He won the shorter race in 47.76 and the longer one in 1:39.84. They were the first swim titles for his school.
Wachtel was nothing if not confident. He swam prelims last week at sectionals in a drag suit. He didn't even shave until championship day at the state finals.
North Central got two individual state titles to go along with the Panthers' second place. Mike Christy defended his backstroke championship in 49.93 and Edward Minturn hauled home the 500-freestyle title. Minturn had to hold off a serious challenge from Sam Trahin of Fort Wayne Carroll, who finished half a second behind.
The diving crown went to Kurt Barttrum of Yorktown, with 426.50 points. Jimmy Page of Crown Point was 2nd.
Yorktown swim coach Jay Agnew said Barttrum's diving performance was one of the best he's seen at state.
A few other performances are worth noting.
Victor Sikorski, a junior from Wheeler, took third in the 50 free, the highest finish ever for a boy from his school.
Sophomore Chris Johnson of Lake Central was seen with an unusual friend after finishing behind Lemert in the breaststroke. He was carrying a teddy bear from his girlfriend. Last year he failed to make finals when he got sick.