Friday, February 23, 2001

Dixie swimmer chasing two Ky. titles

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

        Dixie Heights senior Michael Day agrees with his coach's assessment he could excel in almost any event of a swim meet — except diving.

        “I started out being a diver, but I was really bad,” Day said. "When I first started out, back when I was 6 years old, you had to do a front dive and a back dive, and I couldn't do the back dive without help. I was horrible.”

        Day switched to swimming, which was more suited to his talents. He is favored to win the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly at the Kentucky high school state championship meet today and Saturday at the University of Kentucky's Lancaster Aquatic Center.

        Day won both events and was named outstanding performer at the Region 4 meet two weeks ago. He finished second in the backstroke and fourth in the butterfly at last season's state meet.

        “He's ranked No.1 in the state in the butterfly and backstroke as far as times out of the regional meets,” said Ed Cook, Dixie Heights's first-year coach. “He's probably two or three seconds faster than the next guy in the fly and one or two seconds ahead in the backstroke. He just took off in the regional.”

        Day, the 17-year-old son of Jack and Sidney Day became interested in swimming when his sister, Amye, joined the Beechwood Swim Club team. He gave up soccer to focus on swimming when he was 11, and he was good enough to join Northern Kentucky's premier team, the Clippers. He started competing for the Dixie Heights varsity as a seventh-grader, and he was named the region's outstanding swimmer after reaching the finals in the 100 fly that season.

        Strong kicking skills is one reason Day participates in his two primary strokes. He honed those skills in December during a camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The camp was limited to two swimmers per event from all over the country. Invitations were based on times from the summer long-course season, when Day missed by a half-second of qualifying for the Olympic Trials.

        “Watching Michael compared to other swimmers, he is very technically sound, but I think the camp helped him make better kicks,” Cook said. “I think it also helped him with his starts and the timing of his strokes and kicks.”

        “I think what helped me with those events is having to kick underwater off each turn,” Day said. “It gives me an advantage. I'm fast off the walls. You have to have really quick legs. You have to be fast and hold your breath.”

        Day's accomplishments have created interest among college recruiters. His interest in making films — “Matrix” is his favorite — has him leaning toward Florida State and its strong film program. He also has made official visits to Louisiana State and Utah and an unofficial visit to Kentucky. He's also planning an official visit to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. He ranks a school's swimming program third on his list of priorities when considering a school, behind the educational opportunities and how comfortable he feels.

        First, he has unfinished business at the state meet.

        “Ever since last year, when I was so close, I want to get up that one more step on the podium,” Day said. “I kind of like to think I can do it, but I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. I don't want to think about winning.”


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