Homestead senior swimmer Cameron Luarde and his coach, Justin Max, said they don't put a whole lot of stock in where a swimmer is seeded heading into the state finals – even if Luarde holds the fastest time in the state in the 200 yard individual medley and the second fastest time in the 100 breaststroke.
“It's definitely better than being seeded 32nd, I guess,” Max said. “We try not to read too much into it. We knew, heading into sectionals, the kind of athlete he is and the kind of work he's put in, he's going to be toward the top. ... In both of those events, we know there are four or five guys who are capable of going those times. We think that he's one of them, though, and that part is exciting.”
Luarde set South Side Sectional meet records in both the 200 IM (which he won in a time of 1:47.22) and the 100 breast (55.59). His 200 IM time is the best by just over a full second.
“It doesn't really matter until you're there,” said Luarde, who said he thinks he still has more room for improvement at the state finals at the IU Natatorium at IUPUI today and Saturday. “It's a different environment, because you're racing people who are your speed. You're not just racing the clock, you're racing others.”
Luarde finished seventh in both the 200 IM and the 100 breast at the 2020 state finals, and then, like everyone else, was quickly plunged into a year of “ups and downs,” as he put it. He had already qualified for the Olympic Trials, an exciting opportunity that was called off when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed. He was allowed to return to regular training in the summer, although he said he was able to cross-train and use the tiny pool at his home during the three months that teams were not allowed at public pools.
“It's just a whole mental game, honestly. It's just a lot of mental toughness and dedication,” Luarde said. “You just use it as motivation.”
Luarde is positioned to finish his high school career on a high note this weekend, but he and his teammates have already secured a postseason highlight by claiming the South Side Sectional title. The Spartans had finished behind rival Carroll in each of the last two seasons.
“It's been a little bittersweet. We got it our freshman year, and then it kind of came back around in our senior year,” Luarde said. “A lot of the underclassmen stepped us and really surprised us.”
Luarde is not the only local swimmer who stands a good chance of reaching the championship finals Saturday. Carroll's 200 medley and 400 free relays are each slated seventh; sophomore Owen Dankert is seeded eighth in the 500 free; and sophomore Adam McCurdy is seeded 10th in the 200 IM. Senior Chandler Lipp and Dankert have the 10th and 13th fastest times, respectively, heading into the 200 free preliminaries.
Concordia senior Finn Brooks is seeded third in the 50 free with a time of 20.53, and he's fourth in the 100 butterfly (49.43).
The Homestead 200 medley relay, which includes Luarde, is seeded sixth, and the 400 free relay is eighth. Teammate Spencer Koehrn is 11th heading into the 100 breast.
Unfortunately for all the athletes competing this weekend, spectators will not be allowed, as was the case with the girls state finals several weeks ago.
“It was different, but we knew it was going to be different. I don't think it was a shock to anybody that it was different,” Max said. “How different it was could have been a little shocking, but it's the same meet for however many people make it. It's not like Carmel gets to have spectators and cheerleaders and we don't.”
At a glance
What: Boys swimming and diving state finals
When: Noon today – Preliminaries for even-numbered sectionals (including Warsaw, South Side), 5:30 p.m. – Preliminaries for odd-numbered sectionals (including Elkhart, Jay County); 9 a.m. Saturday – Diving preliminaries, semifinals and finals, 3:30 p.m. – Consolation finals and championship finals
Where: Indiana University Natatorium, Indianapolis
Watch: No spectators allowed, events streamed at IHSAAtv.org