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  • Val T.

Indy 500: Seuferer headed to state in swimming’s longest event


Sports Editor, RTC

Rochester senior Jake Seuferer stands atop the sectional podium with the championship ribbon after winning the 500 freestyle at the Warsaw sectional Saturday. His winning time was a personal best 4:59.49. He will swim at the IHSAA state finals at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis at 6 p.m. Friday. (photo provided)

Rochester senior Jake Seuferer was the fastest qualifier for the finals in the 500 freestyle at the Warsaw sectional, and one of the perks of being the top qualifier in an event is that you get to choose the walk-out music before the finals.

Seuferer chose “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga.

In many ways, it was a fitting song for Seuferer. On one hand, Seuferer said he was calm, loose and relaxed for the biggest race of his life. He was feeling the music and having a good time.

On the other, the 500 freestyle never gets easy.

It’s a grueling, uncomfortable race that requires extra practice.

“You’ve got to be crazy,” Seuferer said. “I’m not saying I’m crazy, but you’ve got to be crazy to do it. It’s brutal. Swimming in general is just brutal, but that 500 is a different type of brutal.”

Seuferer’s experience and his ability to overcome the difficulty of the 500 freestyle paid off in style as he routed the field to win the title at Warsaw and advance to his first state finals.

He beat the field by more than 10 seconds and broke five minutes in setting a new personal best at 4:59.49.

He will swim at the Indiana University Natatorium in the state preliminaries at 6 p.m. Friday. Seuferer is seeded 30th. The top 16 at the preliminaries advance to the finals on Saturday.

“It’s pretty good,” Seuferer said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been at IUPUI because the last time I went was seventh grade (with the Rochester Royals), and I was going to go back in eighth grade, but that’s when COVID hit, so I never got the opportunity to go back to state. So it’s been five years.”

Seuferer climbed the 500 freestyle podium to the top one step at a time. He was fourth in 2021, third in 2022 and second in 2023.

Seuferer was considering not swimming the 500 freestyle this year when Tippecanoe Valley senior Isaac Whetstone approached him. Seuferer was second behind Whetstone at both the Three Rivers Conference and sectionals meets last year.

Seuferer and Whetstone are friends, going back to when they both swam for the Rochester Royals in elementary school. They also swam on the same 200 freestyle relay at an age group team last year.

Whetstone told Seuferer when they saw each other at the girls sectionals, which occur two weeks before the boys sectionals, that he was not going to swim the 500 freestyle this year and was going to focus on the 200 freestyle and 100 freestyle this year.

Seuferer reassessed his plans. It was time to give the 500 freestyle another try.

“We talk a lot,” Seuferer said. “Because I was planning on not doing the 500 because he was in it. So then I was going to do the 100. And then we talked at girls sectionals, and we talked a lot, and then he said he was switching, and I go, ‘Well, I’ve got to switch back.’”

It worked out for everybody: Whetstone broke Valley school records in both the 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle in winning both events at the sectional. He beat Seuferer and another top rival, Culver Academy’s John Collins, in the 200 freestyle. Collins, like Whetstone, also decided not to swim the 500.

Seuferer said he breaks down the race into three parts – the first 200, the middle 200 and the final 100.

“Get through the first 200 because it hurts,” Seuferer said. “And it’s also the beginning of the race, and you have so much more to go. … Then that second 200, you’re just trying to get through it. And then that last 100, just bring it home.”

What was his favorite part of his race Saturday?

“The end,” Seuferer said. “Because it was over.”

He said he was dealing with tendinitis in his right arm and elbow, so he was not expecting a time below five minutes. Once he touched the wall and looked up to the scoreboard to see his time, he said he surprised himself.

“I was just wanting a low five, but going under five is awesome,” Seuferer said. “That’s always been a lifetime goal, so I accomplished it.”

Seuferer is also headed into his fourth season as the starting catcher on the Zebra baseball team and will play collegiately at Indiana University Kokomo.

He spoke of muscle memory ties together swimming with baseball.

“When you’re racing and you’re tired, you’re down to what your muscles know, not what your head knows,” Seuferer said. “Because your head is just saying, ‘Stay alive. Breathe.’ It’s just what you practice and practice and practice. … It’s the same with baseball. You don’t see the ball hit the bat. You see the ball probably there, and you’re like, ‘Hands, go to it.’ So it’s a lot of repetition, and I think that’s why they mix so well. They’re the same, but they’re not.”

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