Entering his freshman swimming season at Columbus North, Michael Brinegar had some pretty modest goals.

As it turned out, Brinegar far exceeded his goal in at least one of his events. He won the state title in the 500-yard freestyle last month.

“It was kind of a hope,” said Brinegar, The Republic Athlete of the Year for Boys Swimming. “The main goal was just getting top four in the 500 and top eight in the 200 (freestyle). I was happy with my times.”

Brinegar swam a personal-best 4 minutes, 24.92 seconds at the state meet to win the 500 freestyle by more than four seconds. He also finished eighth in the 200 freestyle in 1:40.62 and anchored the Bull Frogs’ 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay teams to 11th- and 12th-place finishes.

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‘Willing to do the work’

“Winning state titles, I don’t think ever is a surprise when we have athletes that are that talented and are willing to do the work,” said Jim Sheridan, who retired as North coach at the end of the season. “I think where the rest of the state might be surprised is the manner in which he did it.

“The second half of his races, nobody in the state can hang with him,” he said. “He went his last 50 split in 24-plus. I think it would have been 23-plus had he been side by side with somebody. He’ll continue to get better and continue to get faster as he gets physically stronger.”

Not his first act

Brinegar is no stranger to high-level swimming, having won multiple state and national age-group championships.

“Michael is a young man that has over the last couple of years really come into his own as an athlete,” Sheridan said. “He’s always been a great student, so he’s going to be a great student-athlete through his high school career and on to college. He’s a young man that’s driven with very high goals, very high ideas about where he would like to see his swimming go at this point in his life.”

“Once he continues to harness all of that and stay completely focused all the time, I don’t think there’s going to be anybody better than him in the country and possibly the world,” he said. “Those are heady statements, but he has that kind of ability to do that.”

Brinegar said he won’t start thinking about new goals for next high school season until the season begins. This summer, he plans to compete in the junior nationals in Texas. He already has an Olympic Trials cut in the mile.

“My goal is just to drop time in my events because there are a lot of fast people at junior nationals,” Brinegar said.

“There are very few 15-year-olds across the world that can harness their abilities and get to that level of swimming maturity that makes you world-best,” Sheridan said. “If they can learn to do that at an early age, they get a long and very satisfying career out of it.”

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.