The conventional wisdom when it comes to setting a lineup for a swim meet dictates that coaches place their best swimmers in the maximum of two individual events and on two relays.
At least for this year, a couple of local coaches are going with a different strategy.
This week, Indian Creek will use sophomore Chase Smith on all three of its relay teams and just one individual event (100-yard freestyle) at the Franklin Sectional, and the host Grizzly Cubs will do the same with sophomore Max Kramer.
Coaches Brad Smith, of Indian Creek, and Zach DeWitt, of Franklin, both made the choice with next week’s state meet in mind.
“At sectionals, if you want to win that meet, then you probably want to look at putting somebody in two individuals,” DeWitt said. “Over the course of our sectional meet, it’d probably be advantageous to go with Max in the two individuals. But our goal right now is to place as high as we can at the state level, and having Max on all three relays gives us the chance to do that.”
A similar move paid off in the girls postseason for Indian Creek; sophomore Bella Ratzlaff swam on all three relays for the Braves, and two of those quartets qualified for the state meet.
“I’d rather be third at sectional but send a couple of relays to the state than be second at sectionals and not have anybody at the state meet,” Brad Smith said.
While stacking the relays in that fashion makes sense from a team scoring standpoint — relays count for twice as many points — it’s not always easy to do.
Convincing your best individual swimmers to sacrifice a shot at individual glory can be difficult, and depending on how high those individuals figure to finish in their own events, it’s not always worth it.
But Kramer, whose lone individual event will be the 50 freestyle, and Chase Smith offer the perfect combination — sprinters who are fast enough to help all three teams, and team-first guys unselfish enough to make the move.
The two sophomores are likely to be swimming the anchor leg on every relay for their respective teams, and with good reason — both possess a competitive drive that can sometimes render previous times irrelevant.
Whatever’s needed in the moment, they’re determined to deliver.
“I thrive off that environment, whether it’s a chasedown type thing to win or being able to hold off guys at the end of that race,” Chase Smith said. “That’s my favorite position in the relay, just because I can give it all for my team.”
“I’m a little nervous for it,” Kramer said of filling the anchor role, “but everybody should know I’m not going to back down — and I will not lose if we have the lead. It just won’t happen.
“When it comes down to it on a relay, you’re not thinking about what your split’s going to be. You know it’s going to be fast, because you’re in a big moment and you’re swimming for three other dudes on the relay. When it comes down to it, you’ve just got to race as hard as you can and make sure you’re putting your hand on the wall before the dude next to you does.”