Wednesday, February 09, 2000

Sycamore swimmer eyes national record

Ketchum wants to break 17-year-old freestyle mark

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dan Ketchum
(Saed Hindash photo)
| ZOOM |
        Winning a state swimming championship is a tough enough task. Breaking a national record that has stood since 1983 is even tougher.

        Despite the degree of difficulty, Sycamore senior Dan Ketchum begins a quest Friday in the sectional meet at Anderson to better the 500-yard freestyle mark of 4:16.39 set by Jeff Kostoff of Upland, Calif.

        Ketchum set the state record last year in the 500 with a career-best 4:25.68.

        “That's definitely my goal,” Ketchum said of the national record. “I've only swum the 500 freestyle once this season at the (Southwestern Ohio Officials Association) Classic, and I swam it in 4:32.”

        Ketchum, a two-time defending state champion in the 200 and 500 freestyle, has been focused on breaking the national record for three years. He was ready to challenge it in 1999 because his training was geared to a national meet two weeks after state.

        “I started this season very slowly, because I was all worked up about where to attend college,” Ketchum said. “I got that out of the way and since Christmas I've been training hard.”

        Ketchum, who will attend Michigan, appears to outsiders to be quiet and shy.

        But Ken Stopkotte, who coaches Ketchum at the Cincinnati Marlins, said he knows the other side of Ketchum.

        “He comes across as shy, but inside there is a raging ball of fury,” Stopkotte said. “No one trains or competes with more intensity.”

        It's this desire to achieve that could be the difference when Ketchum goes into the state meet in Canton on March 25 and 26.

        During the holidays, Ketchum swam 109,000 yards, spending six hours in the pool six days a week. At the time of the Classic in January, Ketchum was tired and not swimming his best.

        “Dan has his goals, and we'll train him to accomplish them,” Stopkotte said. “It's quite a challenge and it will take a perfect swim (to break the 500 record). Dan gets out fast and closes strong. The key in the 500 will be the middle 300 yards.”

        After the 1999 high school season was completed, Ketchum went to the Senior Nationals in Long Island, N.Y. where his times in the 200 and 400 meters were good enough to qualify for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials in August.

        Ketchum's next major meet was the U.S. Open in December.

        “Dan didn't do well in the U.S. Open ... because we were focused on training,” Stopkotte said. “There were swimmers from 33 foreign countries and it was the fastest U.S. Open in history.”

        It was after the U.S. Open that Stopkotte pushed Ketchum even harder, which included the 109,000 yards, the equivalent of 62 miles.

        Three mornings a week, Ketchum attends 5:30a.m. workouts with the Sycamore teams under coach Mark Sullivan.

        During the past couple of weeks, Ketchum's training schedule has been lightened. Rather than swim distance, he is now involved in speed drills.

        “You can see it in Dan's eyes when he's racing,” Stopkotte said. “It's one of those things that I appreciate as a coach. It's nice working with a dedicated athlete who is a team player and willing to help anyone.”

        At the junior nationals during the summer, Ketchum turned some heads with an out-of-the-pool act.

        “A coach who had only one swimmer needed a counter for one of the distance races and asked me for a volunteer,” Stopkotte said. “Dan popped right up and did it. That's the type of person he is.”

        Ketchum said the state high school meet is the most exciting competition.

        “It's surely not the biggest meet I'll swim in,” Ketchum said. “But I get excited because of the crowd. They get behind all the swimmers. The fans are so wild, and it's like being at a basketball or football game.”


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