The Journal Gazette
Sunday, August 25, 2019 1:00 am

Spartan also Olympic hopeful

Will participate in Omaha with sights on Tokyo

MICHAEL WHITLOW | For The Journal Gazette

There's not much that can slow down Homestead junior Cameron Luarde, in or out of the pool.

Well, aside from half his fall semester classes being advanced placement courses, along with writing a pair of papers already just a week into the school year.

“He's got a lot of goals and they're pretty lofty. He's willing to do whatever it takes to beat them,” Southwest Allen County Swim Team coach Justin Max said. “He wants to be working toward them 24/7/365.”

Luarde's goal list is extensive, but didn't include qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials, at least not until he was 14 years old and qualified for his first Junior Nationals event in San Jose. The state finalist in the 100 breaststroke for Homestead this past winter said that was the turning point in his career.

This past June, Luarde checked that goal off the list after his time of 2:17.79 earned him second place in the 200-meter breaststroke at the Indiana Senior State Long Course Championships in Indianapolis and a spot in next June's Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

By making the cut in the event and qualifying for the trials, Luarde became the first Fort Wayne product since 2012 to make the trials and the first in history to become a trials qualifier younger than 18 years old.

“I was kind of just stunned,” Luarde said with a short laugh. “I honestly couldn't believe it actually happened.”

Luarde thanked his teammates, whom he likens to his actual siblings because they've spent so much time together over the years, for their consistent support.

“Everybody was really excited for him,” Max said. “The SWAC team hasn't had anyone qualify for the trials since about (2012) I think. Those cuts are hard to come by. It's tough to make it. A lot of the SWAC team was there cheering him on and when he touched the wall, everyone looked at the scoreboard and cheered. It was great for everyone.”

Max credited Luarde's attention to detail in the classroom and in the water to his rise over his first two years of high school. Luarde's level of maturity and focus is something that Max says separates him from everyone else in the SWAC program.

“The vocal leader is something that we've tried to install in him. He's not really much of a vocal leader,” Max said. “He's more of a 'I'm here to handle my business and I'm going to do whatever it takes for the next two-and-a-half hours to handle my business' kind of thing. The joke I always make with him is when he's the least happiest is when I have the guys do a mess-around activity in the water. I tell them, 'Hey, we're going to do 25 doggie paddles or something and that's not what Cameron's here for.”

Something else that Luarde's not here for, at least not for the time being with two more high school swimming seasons in front of him, is the college recruiting process.

“The college recruiting opening date was June 15 and since then, they've all been there all the time,” Luarde said. “You don't really get a break from them,” he laughs. “They're always asking you how you are, how school's going and stuff.”

Max noted that although Luarde may not be the biggest fan of being recruited because of his “reserved personality,” he's not shy on what he wants to accomplish in the future and where he'd like to go to accomplish those goals.

“We've talked about it. He's a super smart kid with a stellar GPA and is goal-orientated academically as well,” Max said.

“At least right now, he's really looking to pair the two together by looking at schools where he needs to improve as an athlete in the pool and get an A-1 level education, so those are the kind of schools who are at the top of the list right now. It's easier when they know what they want. It's harder when you sit down with an athlete and they don't really know what they want. He knows what he wants, so it makes it easier to sit down and cross people off that maybe don't meet the criteria.”

Before the big weekend in Omaha next June, Luarde has some unfinished business with the pool on the campus of IUPUI for the state finals, where a fever of 102 degrees couldn't keep Luarde from a top-8 finish in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 57.52 in 2019.

“It was a good experience last year,” Luarde said. “It wasn't as good as it could've been because I didn't swim as good as I thought I could swim. I was sick during that time I had to swim, but I was still pretty pleased with being sick and still coming back to make the top eight. I want to do even better this year.”

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