Seth Johnson has a lot to live up to in the swimming pool. The Homestead junior is the youngest child in a family that has seen his siblings continue to outdo each other.
The oldest, Danielle Johnson, was a state qualifier in butterfly and swam at DePauw University. Then came Zach, who was a state finalist and a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection at Purdue University. Most recently, Blake topped both of them with a state championship in 2011 in the 100 butterfly before swimming for one season at Purdue.
Now, Seth hopes he can continue and maybe even add another level to this success as the boys sectional swimming preliminaries begin at 5:30 p.m. today at South Side's Helen P. Brown Natatorium. Finals are scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It kind of puts a little bit more pressure on, but my siblings were all butterflies and their secondary stroke was backstroke,” Seth Johnson said. “My best stroke is backstroke and my secondary is butterfly, so it's a little different.”
Just as Johnson has his siblings to try to equal, the entire No. 25 Homestead team has to match the success of its predecessors. The Spartans have won 18 straight team sectional championships. The last time they lost was the 1993-1994 season, before some of the swimmers were born.
“It definitely motivates us more because we've had the tradition of winning basically,” said senior Cody Craig. “They (Carroll) did get us sophomore year, two years ago at conference, but it's not going to happen again. That's the thing we've been focusing on, is like, we win.”
Homestead has to beat out strong competition from No. 12 Carroll and No. 14 Snider to keep the streak going. At the Northeast Hoosier Conference meet a few weeks ago, Homestead topped Carroll by 28 points, and at the Fort Wayne Classic in December, the Spartans topped both Snider and Carroll.
Depth could be the biggest reason the Spartans are able to overcome their main competition.
“I think if you talk about marquee athletes … I think most of the talk at the boys sectional will be about Snider and Carroll, but I think we're going to walk away with the trophy,” said Homestead head coach Chad Englehart. “It's a testament to a lot of freshmen, a lot of younger guys, and our third guy is better than their third guy everywhere, and our third guy is better than their second guy sometimes.”
Englehart realizes his team needs to do well across the board because of the top swimmers and relays Carroll and Snider have on their rosters. Heading into sectionals, Snider boasts the No. 7 medley relay in the state, the No. 9 200 freestyle relay and Landan Mintch at No. 9 in the 50 freestyle.
Carroll is just as strong. The Chargers' Blaine Nichols is No. 8 in the 200 individual medley, the 200 medley relay team is No. 12, the 200 freestyle relay is No. 10 and the 400 freestyle relay is No. 15.
It's a lot of top-end talent Homestead has to compete against. The Spartans' Robbie Veenstra is No. 12 in the 200 individual medley and No. 15 in the 100 butterfly, and they have the No. 17 400 freestyle relay team.
“It's better to get two, three, four than one, five, six, but you know it's the depth that should be our backup plan,” Craig said. “If we can't win (an event), we definitely are going to get the next spots in line.”
Still, as talented as Carroll's and Snider's swimmers are, Johnson has his siblings' achievements to try to match. Blake Johnson's state championship banner hangs on the Southwest Allen Natatorium wall, reminding Seth of what he wants to achieve.
“Yeah, he (Blake) was still really fast at backstroke, so I still have to kind of live up to him,” Johnson said. “That would be cool to say that I'm the 100 backstroke state champ, but I also want to get past him in the butterfly too.”
Guess that means Seth Johnson wants to two state championships. That would certainly give him family bragging rights.