LAPORTE | It's a proven fact that telling kids there is a monster in the pool makes them swim faster.
At this time of year many monsters in Chesterton swimsuits hang out in the middle lanes and hasten the pace of all of the aquatic action.
“When you’ve got the defending state champion -- and a team who I think will turn around and win it again next week -- it's tough with them looking to go 1, 2, 3 in every race,” Valparaiso coach Nellessen said. “You just try to make a state cut and worry about it when you get down (to Indianapolis).”
In a meet that was as quick as it was packed -- in both cases, very -- Chesterton earned the top spot in all 11 races and the top three spots in five of the eight individual races at the preliminaries of the LaPorte Sectional on Thursday night at the LaPorte Natatorium, which had its snazzy brand-new scoreboard on display.
The defending state champion Trojans are seeking a 16th consecutive sectional championship, and coach Kevin Kinel is always seeking perfection.
“On prelim nights, especially when you’re seeded high, it’s really hard to get the kids motivated, and we swam that way,” Kinel said. “We made a lot of fundamental errors, things that at this stage we shouldn’t be having.
“Overall we got the kids in position, but we’ve got to come to play on Saturday.”
Ranked No. 1 in the state in the 100-yard freestyle, Blake Pieroni might have needed extra enticement, so a coach bet him $1 he couldn’t break his sectional record in his marquee race.
The Indiana University recruit broke his old sectional record of 45.74 seconds with a time of 45.15. He also earned the top seed in the 200 individual medley. The senior is defending sectional and state champ in both races.
At press time he had yet to receive his dollar.
“Tonight is all about getting situated for the sectional finals and also seeing how we do in the prelims versus everyone else,” Pieroni said. “For me, more personal bests are on the way.”
Teammate Aaron Whitaker re-established his sectional record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 50.87. Whitaker also earned the top seed in the 100 fly. The senior is also the defending sectional and state champ in both races.
In addition to earning the No. 1 seeds in the three relays, Chesterton is set up to have four double winners as Ethan Whitaker earned the top seed in the 200 and 500 free, and Jack Wallar swam fastest in the 50 free and 100 breast.
That left swimmers such as Michigan City sophomore Timothy Schoof looking for an upset or at least a state-cut time on Saturday. Schoof had a big night, qualifying second in the 100 fly and fourth in the 50 free. He also helped the Wolves qualify second in both the 200 medley and 400 free relays.
“I knew I needed to come to race, and I did that today,” Schoof said. “My freshman year, I was disappointed I didn’t make the state cut, but I came back and won age group state (in the 100 free), so I’m hoping to be back at state next week.”
Wheeler’s Jack Fekete qualified second in the 50 free, and LaPorte freshman Ben Klimczak qualified third in the 100 back. All the other top-three qualifying spots went to Chesterton.