By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
It takes only a couple of seconds for Mankato East senior Sam Drummer to pull the faded, wrinkled rectangle from his wallet to show it off to somebody. In terms of swimming, it may be his most prized possession.
Two years ago, as a sophomore, Drummer went to the Class A state meet as a spectator to cheer on his teammates from the East/Loyola boys swim program. He placed the ticket stub in his wallet and has used it as motivation to qualify for state himself the last two seasons.
“I’m hoping I won’t need a ticket this year,” Drummer said before a recent practice. “I’d like to get to state in at least a couple of events.”
Drummer is a distance freestyler for the Cougars who figures his best shot at qualifying for the Class A meet is the 500-yard freestyle. The state cutoff this year is 5:13 and his career best is a 5:20. With a little extra work and a good taper, he thinks he can make it.
Drummer also figures to be one of the team’s top 200-freestylers and is hoping to get a chance to compete on a relay or two. Whatever he can do to help the team, he’s prepared to contribute.
“Sam is a kid with a lot of dedication,” head coach Tim Johnson said. “He gets it about swimming. He knows what needs to be done and what he needs to do to get better and he goes after it.”
“He’s a great role model for the younger swimmers, too, both in and out of the water. When our underclassmen want to see the right way to do things, Sam is one of the kids they look to.”
The Cougars have more than 40 swimmers out in grades 7-12 for the 2012-13 team, which is about the same as the last five years. Among the top returners are senior captains Corey Kriesel (sprint freestyler), Bobby Schultze (freestyle, butterfly, individual medley), Jack Adams (freestyle, backstroke) and Sam Rykhus (breaststroke, freestyle).
East/Loyola’s 400-free relay team set the school record at the state meet last year but two of those swimmers — Max Rykhus and Parker Halldin — have graduated. Johnson is confident he can fill those two spots for another successful season in that event.
Other seniors expected to contribute this year are Gabe Eichberger (sprints), Nate Iversen (middle distance), Sam Iversen (sprints), Tyler Van Eck (backstroke) and Brett Petersen (sprints). Petersen has returned after a two-year absence.
This year’s top juniors are Tyler Willaert (diving), Mitch Miller (sprints) and Nathan Dreyer (breaststroke). Divers Isaiah Warning and Sam Nelson lead the sophomore class while Andy Schultze (IM), Luke Bauer (IM) and Michael Behsman should contribute as freshmen.
East/Loyola opens the season Dec. 8 at Hutchinson.