Overwhelmed at the start, it didn't take long for Chesterton junior swimmer Tony Kincaid to become quite comfortable in the pool.
In just his second year of competition, Kincaid has already qualified for the state finals prelims. He's seeded 28th in the Friday's heats of the 100-yard butterfly (52.71).
"I didn't know where I would end up, this team is huge," Kincaid said. "As time progressed, I gained more confidence."
Veteran Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel said Kincaid is one of a tiny handful of swimmers who have come to the program with no prior age-group experience.
"I just don't know if anyone has progressed this fast," Kinel said. "To make it to the state in just his second year of swimming is remarkable."
Kincaid's beginnings were modest in nature. He took a swimming class at the high school as a freshman. Two summers ago, a Duneland YMCA lifeguard told Kincaid's father Kenneth that his son had a really nice stroke. Kincaid had a few friends on the team, and he was asked to try out last season.
"I'd tried out for the basketball team a few times, but never made it," said Kincaid, who also threw the shot put as a freshman on the track team. "I just wanted to get in shape. I talked with (Kinel) and just went along with the program."
Kincaid came into the program with natural attributes of size (6-foot-4) and strength, and now he's picked up the techniques to become very successful in the water.
"He's a very intelligent kid, so he understands what is being taught," Kinel said. "He just really blossomed."
Kincaid said his favorite event is the butterfly, but he developed the other strokes so well that he had a varsity spot in the 200 individual medley. He didn't qualify for state in that event, finishing fourth with a time of 1:59.73, just a little over two seconds from the state cut.
"It's pretty crazy with no experience that he can come in and break two minutes in the IM," Kinel said. "He's got all four of the strokes down."
Kincaid also has settled in with the state's top-ranked team. He's developed friendly ties with with classmates Aaron Whitaker (top seeded in the 100 fly), defending state 100 free champion Blake Pieroni and many others.
"It helps seeing how Aaron and Blake practice," Kincaid said. "Aaron has helped me with my arm position and kick. It's great to race against him."
At times, his teammates are now in awe of Kincaid.
"Some of them ask me how it feels," said Kincaid, who is now contemplating a college swimming career. "I don't really know what to tell them.
"I just really love doing this."