Kevin Zhang admits he didn’t do much physically in his freshman year at Columbus North.
So in looking for something to do his sophomore year, Zhang thought he would try swimming. He had swam for Donner Swim Club as a kid and thought he might enjoy being part of the high school team.
Three years later, Zhang is part of a 200-yard freestyle relay team that has its sights on winning a medal at Saturday’s state finals. The state meet begins with Friday night’s preliminaries at IUPUI’s Indiana University Natatorium.
“The neat thing about Kevin Zhang is, he didn’t even swim his freshman year,” North coach Jim Sheridan said. “He was very nervous about coming out for the team, and even if he had an opportunity to make it.”
After starting out as a distance swimmer, Zhang became a sprinter and breaststroker.
“He’s ended up being a tremendous sprinter for us,” Sheridan said. “He has one of the top hand turnover speeds that I’ve ever seen, and each year has continued to get better for us. The one thing he’s continued to work on is his turn and coming off the wall.
“He’s gotten better every year as he’s gotten used to the type of training that’s expected of him,” he said. “He’s continually gotten better, and each year, it becomes easier because you know what to expect what you’re trying to accomplish.”
In Monday’s North Sectional, Zhang finished seventh in the 50-yard freestyle and eighth in the 100 breaststroke. He swam on the winning 200 freestyle relay team and anchored the second-place 200 medley relay team that finished second, just missing a trip to state in that event.
“I think my times have been all right, as far as the dual meets I’ve swam, but at sectional I feel like I could have swam a little better,” Zhang said. “I didn’t swim as well as I thought I would.”
Senior Matt Freudenthaler, junior Chase McQueen and freshman Michael Brinegar join Zhang on the 200 freestyle relay team. Their sectional time of 1 minute, 27.49 seconds has them seeded 14th among the state’s 32 qualifiers in that event, but only 1.42 seconds out of first.
The top eight from Friday’s prelims make Saturday’s championship final, while the next eight make the consolation heat.
“I think our 200 free relay is pretty strong right now because we have four fast swimmers,” Zhang said. “We just have to put in a lot of work this week. I think we can make it in the top eight.”
The Bull Frogs were state runner-up in the 200 freestyle relay last season, but lost Division I swimmers Cody Taylor (Indiana University) and Sam Loescher (Wyoming). Freudenthaler and McQueen return from that unit.
“This team more than any will really have to hit the starts,” Sheridan said. “The talent level is unlimited, but this is a group that is still growing physically. The guys we lost last year were grown physically, so what we can make up is our timing off the blocks and our turns that we missed a little bit on last year when we were second.”
Since he isn’t planning to swim in college, this weekend will likely mark the end of Zhang’s competitive swimming career. He has been accepted to IU, Purdue, Rose-Hulman, Georgia Tech and Illinois and is thinking of majoring in business or computer science.
Zhang is excited about the chance to swim in the state finals for the first time.
“It’s pretty cool because it’s a new experience for me,” Zhang said. “It’s great because I put in a lot of time at practice the past few years. It’s a pretty good honor for me.”
What: Boys Swimming State Finals
When: 6 p.m. Friday (swimming preliminaries), 9 a.m. Saturday (diving preliminaries and semifinals), 1 p.m. Saturday (swimming and diving finals
Where: Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI
Admission: $8 per session or $12 for both days