The Columbus North sectional swim meet was over, and Sam Russell hadn’t qualified for state in any of his events.

But the Bull Frog sophomore knew he had a shot at call-backs in some of his four races. He kept checking sectional results from around the state as they came in on the IHSAA website, but he didn’t know for sure until the IHSAA posted the state heat sheets the next morning.

“I was probably overwhelmed by all the emotion that I felt,” Russell said. My first state meet going in with three events, I was just ready to swim.”

For his efforts, Russell is this year’s The Republic Boys Swimmer of the Year.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Russell earned call-backs in the 200-yard individual medley and as part of North’s 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays.

“In my head the whole time, I was really upset (after the sectional), but I kind of felt that our relays might get pulled in,” Russell said. “But I didn’t want to expect that. Once I got the notice that everything that I swam was in, except for the 100 butterfly, I was really excited and I was just trying to prepare my body for a good (state) meet.”

At state, Russell finished 24th in the preliminaries in the 200 IM. The top eight make the championship heat, while the next eight make the consolation heat.

Russell had his sights on one of those top-16 spots.

“I feel like as an individual, I could have done a little bit better,” Russell said. “I really worked my hardest, but I didn’t have the outcome that I wanted. I know that 24th at the state meet wasn’t what I was hoping for. I was really hoping to make it back, but that just comes with a little bit more time and a little bit more dedication to everything.”

The 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams both finished 20th in the state prelims. The Bull Frogs lose only one swimmer from each of those relay teams to graduation.

Russell felt most of the improvement he made in the 200 IM came in the backstroke.

“I think as coaches, we see a lot of potential in our athletes, and I think helping inspire them and helping them believe that they can really accomplish whatever they want is something that we try to help our athletes realize,” first-year North coach Logan Schaefer said. “Sam got a good piece of that this year, and he kept building on it. He built on it through Christmas training, he built on it through the new year, through our conference meet and all of that work paid off at the right time for him at sectional and high school state.”

Schaefer said Russell decided he was going to take off to improve himself as a swimmer, as an athlete, as a person and in the classroom. Schaefer said Russell wanted to be a leader, and one way for him to do that was to improve himself in all those areas, and it showed off in the pool as much as it did with Russell growing as a person and in the classroom.

Russell, who has competed with Donner Swim Club the past six years, also runs cross-country in the fall. Last swim season, he was an alternate on the state-qualifying 400 freestyle relay team, but did not compete at the state meet.

“There were a bunch of nerves (this year at state) because the crowd was cheering, and the environment was totally different and you really can’t describe any of that,” Russell said. “I feel like going into next year, I’ll be a little bit more prepared, and I’ll be able to understand what I have to go through to perform how I want.”

At a glance

The Republic All-Area Boys Swimming Team

Sam Russell, Columbus North: The sophomore finished 24th at state in the 200 individual medley and swam on the 20th-place 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams.

Angel Torres Martinez, Columbus North: The senior finished 33rd at state in the 50 freestyle and swam on the 19th-place 200 freestyle relay and 20th-place 400 freestyle relay teams.

Jared Carroll, Columbus North: The sophomore swam on the 19th-place 200 freestyle relay and 20th-place 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams at state.

Adam Zhuang, Columbus North: The senior swam on the 19th-place 200 freestyle relay and 20th-place 200 medley relay teams at state.

Evan Patterson, Columbus North: The freshman swam on the 19th-place 200 freestyle relay and 20th-place 400 freestyle relay teams at state.

Thomas Goble, Columbus North: The junior swam on the 20th-place 200 medley relay team at state.

Grant Fehribach, Columbus North: The junior was a regional diving qualifier.

Austin Mills, Jennings County: The junior was a regional diving qualifier.

Honorable mention

Columbus East: David Rhodes, Austin Smith. Columbus North: Paco Cena Zavala, Nick Green, Jackson Nagel, Paxton Rush, Jackson Swain. Jennings County: Peyton Moore. Trinity Lutheran: Matt Stuckwisch.

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