Who was that guy?

When the Franklin swimming and diving teams hosted the Hall of Fame meet a month ago, a few people were caught off guard by a surprise winner in the boys 100-yard breaststroke.

Michael Couet didn’t come completely out of nowhere — he did place 14th in the breaststroke at the state meet last season — but it’s rare to see anyone, especially a senior, make such a big leap into the upper echelon so quickly.

“I’ve never seen anything like what we’ve seen in the last three months,” Franklin coach Zach DeWitt said of Couet. “When you go in the 100s, dropping a second is a year’s worth of work. He’s two seconds faster than he was last year, and he’s not been tapered yet, which is just truly mind-blowing.”

As a junior, Couet swam the breaststroke in 58.59 seconds. He already has knocked that down to a 57.51 at the county meet Dec. 16, and a week earlier he clocked in at 55.53 seconds on a medley relay leg at the Speedo Winter Junior Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Couet attributes his big drops in time to a sense of urgency that he says kicked in toward the end of last season.

“About halfway through my junior year, something clicked in my head,” he said, “and I think it was just that, ‘Hey, I’m not going to be here forever.’ And if I want to make a move, to go to a really competitive (college) and swim there, then I have to make that move now.”

Couet was out of the water for much of the spring while he pitched for the Grizzly Cubs’ baseball team, a break that he says set him back physically but might have helped him re-energize mentally. Once baseball season was over, he renewed his focus on swimming, training harder and tightening up his diet.

His development was sped up by a group of teammates that’s all too eager to push one another.

“Every time we’re in the weight room and somebody decides to go up in weight on any given exercise, everybody else immediately also goes up in weight,” Couet said. “It’s because no one wants to be left behind and we’re such a hyper-competitive group of people.”

That competitive nature could help push the Franklin boys to new heights come season’s end.

Couet’s breaststroke time at county last month would have been good for eighth at the 2017 state meet. If he can get down around 55 seconds by this February, he could find himself moving much higher than that on the IUPUI awards podium.

“He’s starting to get into pretty rare air, to where he might have a real shot to win a state title,” DeWitt said.

In addition to starring in the breaststroke, Couet will also figure prominently on two Grizzly Cub relays (200 medley and 200 freestyle), and he could also end up making some waves in the 50 freestyle.

Couet hopes to continue with both of his sports for as long as he can — his father was a baseball player and sprint freestyler at Ball State, and if a similar double is an option, Couet would be interested. If not, he’ll be okay with having the chance to compete in either at the next level.

For now, though, he’s fixated on making his final high school season a successful one — and he’s enjoying the fact that to most of the state, he’s still relatively anonymous.

“I don’t mind being the underdog,” Couet said, “and I don’t mind climbing the ladder, so to speak. It’s actually a lot of fun to see people who have no idea who I am all of a sudden looking around like, ‘Who is this kid?’

“Some of these guys I’ve been chasing for years and years, and I’m finally right behind them. It’s going to be a ton of fun.”

By the numbers

Franklin’s Michael Couet earned points in three events at the state meet last season, and he’s on track to improve on all of his finishes this year. A look back at how he fared at state in 2017:

Event;State time;Place

200 medley relay;1:34.52;8th

100 breast;58.59;14th

200 free relay;1:28.88;15th

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.