The exhilaration of competitive swimming has been Chase Smith’s foremost comfort zone since he was 5 years old.
Water. Family. Friends.
The seventh-grader at Indian Creek Middle School was diagnosed in July with Ewing’s sarcoma and only recently jumped back into his sport’s going-as-fast-as-possible lane.
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The comeback has been impressive, particularly in light of Chase’s limited training regimen in comparison to teammates and those he swims against.
In Chase’s return to competition Feb. 9, he won the 100-yard backstroke and took second in the 50 butterfly in a home meet against Edgewood Junior High School.
Three days later he duplicated those achievements — and even lowered his times in the process — in a three-way meet against Eastern Hancock and Shelbyville.
Chase also is expected to take part in Indian Creek’s meet today at Whiteland.
“Right now, I like the fact he’s just in the water competing,” said Chase’s father, Brad Smith, the girls and boys swim coach at Indian Creek High School since the 1994-95 season.
“The times don’t matter. This is a steppingstone.”
Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare disease that mostly strikes children. For those with the disease, cancer cells are found in the bone or soft bone tissue.
Because the tumor was discovered in Chase’s left leg, he’s been using crutches to get around, limiting the amount of pressure he puts on his legs.
Physicians have informed Chase to minimize use of his legs during swim practices and meets. This places an inordinate amount of pressure on the muscles of the upper body such as Chase’s arms, chest and shoulders.
“It was really difficult because I had to sort of hold myself back. But I have so much experience with swimming that I know how 50 percent feels,” said Chase Smith, 13.
“That’s been the hardest part: not going all-out. The best part has been the satisfaction of getting back in the pool and competing again.”
The overwhelming sense of community support coupled with the camaraderie that exists between Smith and his Indian Creek teammates has been a win-win no matter the color of ribbon he’s presented after a race.
“I’ve known Chase now for five years and have been helping coach him for at least three. To me, the No. 1 thing is that he’s back in the water and that he hasn’t lost his feel for the water,” said Rhett Wisener, an assistant swim coach for Indian Creek’s high school and middle school programs.
“I can sense Chase’s desire to get working again. He’s ready to go and to do what he needs to get back to that level.”
Smith, despite his physical limitations, reduced his times in his two specialties — going from a 30.1-second clocking to a 29.0 in the 50 fly and from 1:13.0 to 1:09.00 in the 100 backstroke — from his first meet to his second.
“Chase was a little tired, so he didn’t swim the 400 free relay (against Eastern Hancock and Shelbyville), but he dropped his times in the other two events,” Brad Smith said.
“On Saturday he came in and practiced for about 35 to 40 minutes. These two meets are definitely more than we thought we would get. Chase says he feels good and his energy is up. You just have to take it one day at a time.”
At this point, awaking with the mindset of winning the day is a strategy Chase Smith has mastered.
THE SMITH FILE
Name: Chase Smith
Family: Parents, Brad and Kelli; sister, Kaitlin, 18
Favorite TV show: “The Middle”
Favorite food: Chili
Favorite movie: “22 Jump Street”
Favorite athlete: Kobe Bryant
Favorite team: All Indiana University sports teams