Blake Pieroni understands comparisons to Chesterton 2010 grad and 12-time IHSAA state champion Kyle Whitaker will persist, but the Trojans freshman still finds a way to maintain his focus.
Pieroni sparkled in the lead up to his initial prep campaign.
Over the summer, he won six crowns in the 13-14 year-old division at the state long course championships in Indianapolis. In the process, Pieroni broke Whitaker's mark in the 200-meter back (1 minute, 59.1 seconds). In November, Pieroni broke Whitaker's Duneland Swim Club 13-14 mark in the 100-yard free (54.3) at the Carmel Fall Frenzy.
"I feel a little more pressure from people feeling like I'm going to fill Kyle Whitaker's spot," Pieroni said. "For the most part, I don't think about. Once I get on the block, I don't think about anything but focusing on my race. I'm still doing good on improving on my times and that reassures me."
Pieroni's father, Christopher, swam at Portage, and Blake started the sport when he was 7 years old.
"I started thinking about it seriously when I got to the podium at state 10-and-under age group," Blake said. "That just pushed me to work harder in races and practices."
In just two months, Pieroni has posted three top-six state times on the Indiana High School Swimming Coaches Association poll. His 4:46.46 in the 500-yard free is the fourth-best time this season, his 47.64 in the 100 free is fifth-best and his 1:44.74 in the 200 free is sixth-best.
"He's always been a quality club swimmer, but he really exploded over the summer at age-group state," Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel said. "He's a pretty good distance swimmer and sprinter, he's great in all four strokes plus he's a good (individual medley swimmer). He's kind of the whole package.
"We knew he would make an immediate impact, and he's even surpassing some of our expectations."
Kinel believes a lot of those accomplishments come from Pieroni's work ethic.
"Like most kids at this level, he's a racer; he loves to compete," Kinel said. "Meets are fun, and practices aren't as much. He still accepts the challenge and has fun with it. He understands that records are made to be broken, and he takes it in stride.
"It also helps that he can swim a lot of stuff. That allows him to stay fresh and not get bogged down doing one stroke in practice. Its about realizing his potential and how to get to the points instead of just seeing names on a record board."