Sports

No rust on this all-around swimmer

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Long hours in the swimming pool are nothing new for Decatur High School’s Seamus Alger.

The gangly junior practices seven days a week, jumping into the water at the King County Aquatic Center at 3 p.m. and not drying himself off until close to 7 p.m. on a typical weekday. And now that the postseason is just around the corner, Alger is also training in the mornings before the school bell rings with his King Aquatic Club teammates.

“I just like seeing what I can do,” Alger said. “I like to push myself. It’s just amazing what motivation can do.”

The dedication to the ultra-individual sport of swimming is paying off big-time for Alger. Last Thursday, the junior swam state-qualifying times in the 200-yard individual medley and the 500 freestyle during a 97-86 win over the Rogers Rams for the 5-1 Gators. A pair of state times in one afternoon is impressive enough. But for Alger, hitting the standards in the events ended his yearlong quest for one of high-school swimming’s most coveted feats — Ironman status.

Being an “Ironman” means an athlete has achieved state times in all eight of the individual swimming events — 200 free, 200 individual medley, 50 free, 100 butterfly, 100 free, 500 free, 100 backstroke and the 100 breaststroke.

“It kind of proves you are an all-around swimmer,” Alger said. “I’m a club swimmer. We have longer practices and club swimmers have longer endurance.”

Alger made the “Ironman” attempt last year as a freshman, but fell short of state-qualifying times in his two worst events — the 50-yard freestyle and the 100 breaststroke. Those were the first two events he attempted this season.

“I got those out of the way,” Alger said. “That way I had my easiest events left.”

Alger’s teammate, senior Eric Johnson, was attempting to gain Ironman status at yesterday’s regular season finale against Beamer (after press time). Johnson, who has already signed a letter of intent to swim for national power Wisconsin next year, needed state times in the 50 free and 100 backstroke.

“They are pretty impressive,” said Decatur coach Rick Dennison. “Those guys are amazing.”

As a sophomore, Alger finished in the top-eight in all four of his event finals last year. Alger swam the first leg of the 200 medley relay (third place) and the 400 freestyle relay (second). He also ended up fourth in the 200 freestyle and eighth in the 100-yard butterfly, individually. Alger also swam in four events during the Gators’ state championship season in 2003 as a freshman.

It’s still up in the air what events Alger will compete in at next month’s Class 4A State Swimming and Diving Championships at the King County Aquatic Center.

“We are going to have to sit down and see what events all our guys will swim,” Dennison said.

Alger and Johnson hope to get the Gators back on top of the podium. Decatur won the 2003 title and finished third last year's meet behind first-place TJ.

Decatur returns every point they scored last year in Alger, Johnson, Erich Matulic, Stephen Sullivan and John Neal. The Gators have also added freshman Tommy Cunningham.

Decatur’s main competition at state should come from the Inglemoor Vikings. Just like the Gators, Inglemoor returns everybody from last year. Inglemoor finished just two points behind eventual champion Jefferson (175 to 173) and ahead of Decatur (159 points).

“They are going to be the team to beat,” said Dennison, who is in his first year coaching Decatur. “I think we are going to need 190 points to win it. It just amazes me how much strategy goes into making out a lineup to get the most points possible. It’s a chess game.”

Dennison’s chess game, otherwise known as the swimming postseason, will kick off Feb. 4-5 with the West Central District Meet at Rogers High School. The state championships will run Feb. 18-19.

“This year it’s going to be really close,” Alger said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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