DeKalb-Sycamore co-op swimmer Ryan Schultz didn’t have any expectations heading into the state meet last year.
Schultz had seen the meet before when he was an alternate on a relay team as a freshman, but he didn’t know what it was like to swim in such an intense meet. As a sophomore, Schultz, who qualified in the 100-yard breaststroke, knew he’d be back in the future, so he just wanted to experience the atmosphere and gain experience.
“I was swimming in heat two, so I wasn’t really contending for anything,” Schultz said. “Last year, I just kind of got a feel for how state’s going to be.”
Heading into the season, qualifying for state seemed like a long shot, but a three-second time drop from the previous year meant he made the cut.
Leah Eames expected Schultz to shave off time, but the amount of time he dropped surprised her.
“I was hoping for a career-best time by the end of the season,” Eames said, “but I wasn’t really expecting the time-drops that he had.”
This year as a junior, his goals are even loftier. As a sophomore, he narrowly missed qualifying for state in the 200 individual medley, but he expects to qualify this year.
His time of 1:01.07 last season in the 100 breast at the state finals was more than two seconds out of 12th place, the cutoff for finals. But after finishing 29th in the 200 breast stroke at YMCA Nationals, he thinks a top-12 finish is in his grasp.
“Hopefully I can just keep dropping,” Schultz said. “If I keep dropping, I should be right around the time for top 12.
In a sport where shaving off tenths of a second is an accomplishment at Schultz’s level, cutting off two seconds will be difficult. But Schultz has surprised Eames before, so she wouldn’t put it past him.
“He’s been a lot stronger these last couple of weeks in practice,” she said. “I know by the time he graduates, he’s been eyeing the varsity record for the breast stroke … This year, if he continues to drop, maybe he can squeeze into the top 12 at state. If not, he’s definitely got a few more years to do that.”
With a possibility of qualifying in a relay. Schultz hopes he can continue the strong tradition of DeKalb swimmers who have qualified in three events after Kei Ishimaru and Michael Gordon accomplished the feat two years ago.
While the amount of time he has to drop may be daunting, Schultz saw last season that, with hard work, a multi-second personal best is realistic.
“I wasn’t really surprised, I was just glad that my hard work paid off,” he said. “I’m a lot stronger this year. I would like to qualify in the IM and I think we can qualify in a relay, too.”
2012 DEKALB-SYCAMORE TEAM PREVIEW CAPSULE
Coach: Leah Eames
Last season: Senior Kei Ishimaru finished 18th in the 100-yard butterfly and 25th in the 200 individual medley at the state meet, and sophomore Ryan Schultz finished 39th in the 100 breaststroke.
Key returners: Ryan Schultz, jr.; Marc Dubrick, sr.; Michael Carlson, so.; Dylan Powers, so.; Josh Page, sr.; Ryan Lindsey, jr.; Matt Marchewka, jr.
Impact newcomers: Daniel Hein, fr.; Tyler Schultz, fr.; Jacob Bjork, fr.
Outlook: The Barbs lost their top swimmer from last season when Kei Ishimaru graduated, but Eames isn’t expecting a drop off. If anything, the Barbs may be a stronger team this season with junior Ryan Schultz returning after a trip to state last year in the 100 breast stroke. The Barbs are deep, with 27 swimmers this year compared to less than 20 last year, and Eames hopes to have multiple relays make it to the state meet. Marc Dubrick hopes to cap off his swimming career with an appearance at state after he was named Daily Chronicle Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. Eames also expects big things from freshman Daniel Hein, who has already swam a state qualifying time.
Eames’ take: “Even with the loss of Kei to graduation, they’re hoping to see if they can go undefeated in the dual meets and triangulars. Overall, I don’t think any of the guys are looking at the team as a weaker team this year. If anything, I think everybody’s a lot more confident this year that we’re a lot stronger and a lot deeper.”