Still some work left
MICHIGAN CITY — The relationship between Michigan City senior swimmer Jack Smith and swim coach Mel Kovenz is “always a lively one”, according to the two-time state finalist.
For example, when Kovenz approached Smith about an interview, Smith asked Kovenz, “Can we finish these reps first? I just have a couple laps left and then we’re good.”
Kovenz asked, “We? You got a mouse in your pocket?”
Smith shot Kovenz a look and a grin and started swimming toward the other end of the pool.
“Our relationship is definitely a fun one,” Smith said with a smile. “We’ll go back-and-forth, but I’m thankful for him. He’s helped me get to where I am.”
Kovenz called his senior standout a different guy this year.
“When he got relocated to swimming from his hiatus, he came in three years and contributed right away,” Kovenz said. “He’s a motivated kid. He’s done some great things. He’s goal-oriented, but he’s aggressive with his training ... a lot more with me. We do go back-and-forth, sometimes it’s good nature, sometimes it’s hidden innuendos like, ‘Stop and think about what I’m saying and what you’re doing.’ He’s very elated with his summer of training with Carmel, but I told him, ‘You can’t spell Carmel without Mel.’”
This past summer, Smith swam with the Carmel program in their “high-performance group”, which brought Smith more than one blessing in his life. Not only was Smith able to work with the best high school swimming program in the state of Indiana, the camp provided an opportunity to work with former Notre Dame head swimming coach and new Purdue assistant Brian Barnes.
Not bad for a kid that stopped swimming from sixth grade until his freshman year of high school because his parents encouraged him to do more and try some new things in his young life.
Smith noted that the connection with Barnes at the camp and then his hiring at Purdue this summer were big reasons why the senior chose to attend Purdue over the likes of Notre Dame, Tennessee and countless other schools during the recruiting process.
“I was just lucky to interlap with him there. I saw his coaching style and I really liked it,” Smith said during Wednesday’s practice. “I really grativated towards it and I know it’s going to help me get really far. With head coach Dan Ross, he’s amazing and I love what he’s done with the program. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The decision to attend Purdue was also a family matter in terms of the location compared to “being a plane away”, according to Smith.
“Going to Purdue is a good choice for me personally and for my family,” Smith said. “I can be close to them still and they can still come see me.”
With his college decision out of the way, the focus for Smith is now on the remainder of his courses at City, including AP classes and a tricky calculus exam in the coming days, and finishing what he’s started in the pool.
“I have some redemption at the high school state meet this season,” Smith said, noting his disappointment with his performance in Indianapolis as an individual qualifier last year. “I did pretty well my sophomore year, but last year, I feel like I got comfortable and my training was off. I think I got stagnant. I really want to push myself as hard as I can. I really want to make my mark in high school before I move on to college.”
It’s not just Smith’s individual success that has his focus with the season approaching. The senior has high hopes for not only a relay making the state meet, but he thinks the girls can represent at the biggest meet of the season.
“We really have something brewing here at City,” Smith said. “We’re definitely excited to see what we have. I think we’ll see a relay down there on the boys side and judging from the girls’ performance (on Tuesday in a win over South Bend Clay), we have pretty special things on their side as well.”
Now that the recruiting madness is over, Smith can also focus on being a kid again, and that including attending Saturday’s semistate football matchup between the Wolves and 5A No. 1 New Palestine.
“With recruiting, I’d be gone for a few weekends, so I would miss football games and stuff, but now that I’m back, I can go see our boys go try and win a state championship,” he said. “It’s nice being back in high school life and it’s been really great.”
Reach Michael Whitlow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4169. Follow him on Twitter @couldbelikemike.