Different training routines lead to same result

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Jasper’s Cole Erny is a year-round swimmer, while teammate Mitch Mehringer and Northeast Dubois’ Lucas Schulthies balance time in the pool with other responsibilities. The three will compete in this evening's swimming state final preliminaries at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis. The prelims start at 6, with finals set for 1 p.m. Saturday.

Herald Sports Writer

In one way, the thought seems kind of silly. After all, someone who qualifies for the swimming state finals two consecutive years shouldn’t wonder how much better he could be if more time were devoted to training.


Such is the case with Lucas Schulthies.

“I have thought about how I would probably be better if I swam all year-round,” said Schulthies, a Northeast Dubois senior who advanced to state in the 50-yard freestyle this year for the second straight season. “But it’s a physically and mentally demanding sport and I like to get away from it every now and then. It keeps it fun. You don’t get tired of the same sport all the time.”

Besides, it’s not like Schulthies, a three-sport competitor for the Jeeps, lies on the couch the rest of the year. Soccer (his fall activity) is an endurance sport and he also won the 300-meter hurdles and pole vault at last year’s track and field sectional.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum: swimming year-round.

Jasper junior Cole Erny (500 freestyle) and sophomore teammate Mitch Mehringer (100 breaststroke) will join Schulthies this weekend in Indianapolis. Swimming preliminaries are this evening at 6 at the IUPUI Natatorium, with the finals set for 1 p.m. Saturday. Erny and Mehringer qualified as part of a relay last year before advancing as individuals this time.

Erny swims year-round, taking only a few weeks off here and there as he regularly lifts weights and puts in double practices during the summer. Like Jasper coach Jenae Gill, Erny acknowledged it’s necessary for him to practice all the time, given that the 500 is a grueling distance event.

“I just feel like that I do a lot better whenever I’m always swimming than stopping and starting and having long breaks in between,” Erny said.

Then there’s Mehringer, who swims two to three days a week as he balances his lifeguard duties at Jasper Municipal Swimming Pool, where he works seven hours a day, four days a week.

“I don’t compete in the summer, so when I swim it’s more just to keep up for high school season when it starts up again,” Mehringer said.


Schulthies fits somewhere in between.

Gill said she’d bet every time that the top 16 kids at the state finals are full-time swimmers, though guys like Schulthies, who excels in sprinting events — “splash and dash,” as she said — have a chance if they’re as strong as Schulthies.

But he still had to work to get there. Recently, Northeast Dubois coach Jennifer Wright was clearing out her office and came across Schulthies’ times in middle school. His time in the 50 was around 32 seconds. He qualified with a 22.10 swim in Saturday’s sectional and also broke his own mark in the 100 freestyle (49.71) the same day. The progress was so great that Wright couldn’t help but share the results with the rest of the Jeeps.

“I think a lot of the younger kids look up to him, and they go, ”˜Hey, well, look at what Lucas has turned into,’” Wright said. “They were all like, ”˜Oh, wow.’ From the time he went in middle school to what he goes now, that’s pretty impressive.'

“I think just overall seeing him at practice, his work ethic and what he does as an athlete to train for himself and be in the game, it just helps bring their spirits up.”

Erny remembered finishing the 500 for the first time as a 12-year-old, registering a seven minute-plus swim. Saturday at sectional, he completed the event in 5:06.54. Gill recalled seeing him compete years ago, saying he stood out since most area swimmers aren’t so strong in that distance event. And while kids may change events as they grow older and stronger, there’s one maxim that remains.

“Normally, when they’re that talented, they stay that talented,” Gill said.

Such is the case with this year’s local qualifiers. Schulthies is pretty subdued, perking up only when discussing the progress of his team. As for his back-to-back state finals appearances, the experience is what counts.

“I’m just glad to make it back and it’s always a great experience going up there,” Schulthies said.

“Last year was just mind-blowing at how crazy that meet is and hopefully I’ll be ready for it.
“I’m just going to go up and perform my best and I’ll be happy however that turns out.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.

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