Swimming with the elite
For Jack Smith, it was a swimming opportunity of a lifetime, one the Michigan City senior couldn’t pass up, even if it meant spending some of his summer away from home.
In search of a club to swim for after the high school season, Smith landed with powerhouse Carmel, winner of 32 straight girls high school state titles and 18 boys championships since 1990.
“I couldn’t have had a better option,” Smith said. “The Carmel program is amazing. Their age group program’s one of the best in the nation. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am if I hadn’t done it. It was definitely the right move.”
So how did it all come about, you might be wondering. The M.C. Piranhas club was without a coach prior to the 2017-18 high school season. Come spring time, Smith, a two-time state qualifier in the 100 backstroke who also made it to state in the 100 butterfly last season, was looking for a place to hang his cap and goggles.
“My mom was like, here’s a crazy idea I’ll throw out there — how about going to Carmel?” Smith said. “I was like, all right, sure.”
The Carmel idea wasn’t totally random. Nancy Smith attended IU and was sorority sisters with Marcie Logan, who lives in the affluent Indianapolis suburb. Smith asked Logan about letting Jack stay with her family and contacted the club about allowing Jack to swim with them. The answers to both were affirmative.
“I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to join the club there,” Jack said. “It was incredible to see them work, to see the machine that is Carmel.”
Smith hit the water with some special talent, including Texas recruit Drew Kibler.
“There was quite a bit of top-caliber competition, something I didn’t have up here,” Smith said. “They pushed me like I’ve never been pushed before. One thing I really admired was the team atmosphere. Every single person is there for each other. They were the most humble people I’ve ever met. It was a really cool experience.”
The chance to train with Chris Plumb, Carmel’s high school coach since 2006, and his staff was also invaluable for Smith. Plumb is currently in Fiji as part of the U.S. staff for the 2018 Junior Pan Pacs.
“The whole team was incredible,” Smith said. “Anything you needed to fix, any problem you had, they were there to help you get where you need to be.”
Smith qualified for Junior Nationals in the 100 back to earn a trip last month to Irvine, Calif., also becoming a Scholastic All-American in the process. By making it, he was also able to pick two other events to swim in — the 100 fly and 200 back — to go along with 400 medley relay.
“I definitely want to make it back to state, but not just make state, get on the (awards) podium in both individual events,” Smith said of his goals for the high school season. “Both times, it’s just been me (going) so I want to get a relay to state, too. It’s something awesome to see that I want my teammates to experience, too.”
In addition, Smith, who is going to train with Carmel again next summer, is sharing the wisdom he gained back home with his fellow Wolves.
“My main goal now is to help my teammates, to try to show them everything I learned, to help our team reach its fullest potential,” he said. “It’s my senior year. I want to go out with a bang.”