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BOYS SWIMMING: Bald is beautiful for Manke

BNL junior Alex Manke will compete in two events in the IHSAA prelims on Friday night.

BNL junior Alex Manke will compete in two events in the IHSAA state prelims on Friday night.

BNL junior shears it all

to shave off precious time

for swimming state finals

By Justin Sokeland

Not everyone can pull off the bald look. Some, because of heredity, have no choice. For a swimmer, it’s a sign of the last stage of preparation for a significant race. And in Indiana, few races are bigger than the IHSAA state finals.

Bald is beautiful in the pool. That means it’s time for speed, and Bedford North Lawrence junior Alex Manke hopes to shave off some precious time, matching his hairless body, as he competes in the IHSAA state preliminary races in two events on Friday night.

Manke will make his second trip to the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, competing in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles races. The top eight following the prelims will advance to the state championship race on Saturday afternoon, while places 8-16 will qualify for the consolation race. The favorite times of his life have been in the water, and he hopes to add to those personal highlights with a memorable performance.

Time is the enemy. Manke, a double winner in the sectional at Jasper last week, is seeded near the bottom of the 32-man field in both events: 27th in the 500 (in 4:52.38), 30th in the 200 (1:46.38). He will need to carve off valuable seconds in order to make the jump into the Saturday races. His taper, the gradual easing of training in order to peak for a performance, was set for the sectional.

State finals seedings

“It’s going to be tough,” BNL coach Terry Tlustek said. “It’s not impossible. If he’s able to push himself and drop a considerable amount of time, like he did last week, it will help him get closer to that goal. He has time he can cut. He’s feeling great. I think he has plenty more to give.”

Manke would give a lot to make the second day. He’s already given every hair. Now he’s going to sacrifice every ounce of energy he can summon.

Some factors will work in his favor. He won’t be overcome by the stage, by the tension and noise levels of the state finals. He will be ease, less anxious. And he is self-motivated. The dread of losing spurs him.

“This kid eats, sleeps and breathes swimming,” Tlustek said. “He competes on a regular basis with all these kids, and he wants to be in that elite class. It’s his desire to push.”

Coming off two sectional wins, Manke’s high was dampened when the state seeds were published. But he’s also realistic. He pushes himself by finding faster swimmers and attempting to chase them down. He won’t have to look far.

“Indiana is a really fast swimming state,” he said. “I try not to focus on that, just what I’m going to do personally. I think I can drop a lot more time. I will have more time to rest.”

If Manke has a preference, it’s the 500, which is a grueling event: almost five minutes in the water, 20 times across the pool, with muscles burning and the mind churning.

“You have to remember every stroke, every turn, every kick counts,” he said. “You have to focus on not giving up and holding the pace for a while.”

Manke finished 31st in last year’s 500 in 5:02.75 after winning the sectional in 4:59.45. He will have to avoid going backward.

The prelims will begin at 6 p.m. The finals of all events are set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.