Siefker surges at sectional

February 18, 2019

CHESTERTON — The numbers served as an incentive for Graham Siefker on a daily basis.

“I looked up at Ben Klimczak’s (school) record at any practice, kicking, swimming,” the La Porte sophomore said. “It just motivated me.”

Soon, those numbers will change. Siefker wiped out the Slicers’ 100-yard backstroke standard in Saturday’s Chesterton Sectional with a time of 51.34 seconds, earning a berth in the state finals by surpassing the qualifying standard.

“Before the race, the main thing was I just wanted to go my best time to try to get the state cut,” Siefker said. “I’ve been chasing that. It’s been in my mind for the whole season. I think it was just a perfect storm of a whole bunch of stuff. I was feeling really good after the 50 free. Being around my teammates, watching them do really well, especially the foreign kids, they’ve never done anything like this. I was having a ton of fun watching some of our guys place top eight. It really put me in a good place. I just wanted to keep it going.”

Siefker’s time was nearly a full second below the 52.3 cutoff for a race where the top four finishers all advanced. In addition to third in the back, Siefker tied for fourth in the 50 freestyle (21.92).

“Before the race, coach showed me the splits I needed to get,” he said. “I pushed off the wall after 50 and I looked up at the board, trying to find my name, and I remembered, don’t do that. I felt my body starting to take a toll, but midway through the 75, I saw my two coaches and all my friends throwing their arms over and yelling. I kicked it into high gear and did my best. This is a little more rewarding.”

The state berth extended coach Austin Butcher’s string of years with a qualifier to five, a run that seemed to be in peril at the outset of the season with the Slicers’ small, young roster.

“I told the guys at the beginning of the season and I mentioned it to Graham not too long ago, ever since I took over as head coach, every year, we’ve been able to qualify somebody for state. I’d like that streak to keep going,” Butcher said. “I was confident he was going to get the state cut, but I didn’t expect him to go as fast as he did. He broke the record by six-tenths of a second as a sophomore, which is crazy. You’re not going to see too many call downs when that many make the cut. It was his goal all season and he’s been working hard toward it. I’m proud of him. He was there on our relays last year, but it means a little bit more as an individual. I know he’s excited to get down there. He’s used to the pressure. He’s very mentally tough. That’s not a problem for him. Hopefully, he’ll be as fast, if not faster.”

Besides Siefker, Slicers diver Toy Hayes made a promise as a freshman to his grandpa, Roger Bernard, that he would qualify for the regional. Two years later, the junior made good on those words, finishing second in the event to advance to Tuesday’s Penn Regional.

“I was in my ultimate element,” said Hayes, sporting a sheriff’s department hat in memory of Bernard, a sergeant in La Porte County who died Jan. 6, 2017. “I had my grandpa on my side. He always said he wanted to see me at the regional. I think he’s proud.”

After the disappointment of missing out on the regional by a scant point last season, Hayes left little doubt this time, the emotion of the moment showing in his eyes. A strong final plunge pushed him past Michigan City’s Peter Gondeck for second at 368.1 points.

“I was super focused,” Hayes said, thanking coaches R.J. Walpole and Jesse Furnace for their help. “I was very consistent in my scoring.”

Elsewhere for La Porte, Jordan Hull was seventh in the 200 individual medley and 11th in the 100 butterfly.

“Overall, the team performed really well,” Butcher said. “We had time drops right down the entire list, which is really all you can ask. We have a small team, about 10 guys, so our focus was just getting better every meet. A lot of guys hadn’t been in this type of atmosphere. I know they enjoyed it. I’m happy with how they swam.”

Siefker’s excited to return to the IU Natatorium, a venue he first swam at in a state meet as a member of the La Porte Turbos Club when he was 8.

“I was with Prestin Butcher, coach’s brother,” Siefker said. “It was a relay. It was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. I’ve probably been down there eight, 10 times. That was the foundation, all the coaches I’ve had through all the years.”

La Porte finished sixth in the meet with 160.5 points. Chesterton rolled to another title with 530.

Boys Swimming State Finals



Swimming prelims, 5 p.m.


Diving prelims and semis, 8 a.m.

All consolations and finals, noon

Tickets: $8 per session; $15 for both days