SAM Loescher began his high school swimming career hoping to someday win a state title in the 100-yard breaststroke.
There was only one problem: Columbus North already had one of the state’s top breaststroke swimmers in classmate Cody Taylor.
But that didn’t stop Loescher from excelling in other events. He became a sprint freestyle specialist and, now a senior, will take the state’s fastest time into tonight’s state preliminaries in the 50 freestyle.
“The team needed me to step up in the 50 and 100 free,” Loescher said. “(Taylor) kind of took the reins on that (breaststroke).”
Taylor won the state title in the 100 breaststroke last season, and Loescher finished fourth in 100 freestyle and tied for fifth in 50 freestyle. He is seeded second in the 100 freestyle this season.
“At the time (when they were freshmen), we had Cody, and we had other guys, and we wanted to open up some other races for Sammy to move onto the state level,” North coach Jim Sheridan said. “I didn’t want him beating heads with Cody, and they would have been great racers, but now we have two great racers in four individual events and chances to win those races; and that’s what makes it exciting.”
In Saturday’s North Sectional, Loescher swam a school- and sectional-record 20.64 seconds in winning the 50 freestyle. Bloomington South’s Nick Wonder, who came into the sectional with the fastest time, finished second in 20.78.
“Jim told me to focus on the start and focus on the breakout and the turn, and I did that,” Loescher said. “I came off the turn well and touched first.”
“He got off the blocks with Nick. Nick Wonder is an incredible athlete. Sammy is an incredible athlete. Sammy got the edge getting off the blocks today. If Sammy beats these guys or is even with them off the blocks (today) and Saturday, he’s going to put himself in good shape. He can make a run at these guys.”
Loescher came back to win the 100 freestyle in the sectional in 45.85.
“I did well, considering I’m not shaved yet,” Loescher said. “Halfway through my taper, going 20.6 and 45.8, there’s more to come.”
Connor Leehaug had North’s 50 freestyle record at 20.83. Former state champion and All-American Ryan Wochumurka’s 100 freestyle school record is 44.36.
Chesterton’s Blake Pieroni, who set the state record last year at 44.28, leads the field in the 100 freestyle with his top sectional time of 45.26.
“I want to be under 20.5 in the 50, maybe under 20.4, and in the 100, be as close, if not break that (school) record,” Loescher said of his state-meet goals.
Loescher also will be swimming on the Bull Frogs’ 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams with Taylor, junior Matt Freudenthaler and sophomore Chase McQueen. Both set sectional records on Saturday, and the 400 freestyle relay team set a school record. The 200 freestyle relay team is the top seed, and the 400 freestyle relay team is seeded second.
Taylor is seeded first in both the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.
“We’re different specialties,” Taylor said. “I’m more of a mid-(distance) guy and a stroker, and he’s a sprint freestyle, so we don’t train against each other a whole lot. But it’s definitely been awesome to have two (relay) legs to rely on that we know are going to go insanely fast. It’s always nice to have someone that can score a lot of points for us, as well.”
“Sammy is up there saying, ‘You win the IM, you open this up for me to win the 50 back-to-back at the state championships,’” Sheridan said. “It’s pretty incredible feelings and pretty incredible thoughts that the two of those guys can have.”
Because of Taylor’s success the past couple of years, Loescher might have been a little overshadowed by his teammate. But he relishes possibly going into the state meet under the radar.
“That’s exactly what I want — so no one will see me coming next week,” Loescher said.
“I think Sammy is his own person, and he likes that,” Sheridan said. “They’re friends, and Cody is out there in his own races, and that’s what makes a difference. When they get together, watch out for our relays.”
Sheridan said Loescher is a natural for a sprint freestyler.
“People will say he still looks like a thrasher, but if you watch, one of the things that we try to coach here is the depth of their stroke and how they drive their hands into the water,” Sheridan said. “If you watch him in the water, he’s as good as anybody in the state at grabbing water. He reaches out in front, and it looks ugly, but under water, it’s one of the most beautiful strokes you’ll ever see.
“He’s grown into being a great leader,” he said. “His work ethic has improved tremendously and is only going to get better and better if he lets it. If Sammy continues to improve upon his concentration in the start of the meet and take his mind out of the crowd and put it on the blocks and focus that way, he can go faster.”
Prior to the start of the season, Loescher committed to the University of Wyoming.
“He’s one of the top athletes in the state that was recruited hard, and he is just now growing into his own,” Sheridan said. “The stronger he gets over the next couple of years, Sammy Loescher is going to make a lot of statements in the world of swimming. He’s a great student-athlete, and he’s left some wonderful history here in this pool.”