For the second time in fifteen days, Brebeuf will be sending a group of swimmers to compete in the State Finals. Parker Hershberger, Brendan Donahue, Alex Null, Robbie Sheffield, Ian Miller, Jack Kovach, and Ryland Barton will be representing the Braves and the conference at the IU Natatorium this evening at 6:00 in an attempt to earn the right to swim again on Saturday. They will be competing in the 200 Medley Relay, 200 Free Relay, and 400 Free Relay. Hershberger will also be competing individually in the 50 Free and 100 Breaststroke. For some, this will mark a return to the Finals; for others, it will be a first. Regardless, they are all ready to take in the moment and finish their season with their best efforts.
Senior captain Parker Hershberger will be making his fourth appearance at the Finals. It is his plan to place in the top eight tonight, thereby earning the right to swim for a state title tomorrow.
“My goals for Friday are to enjoy my last IHSAA State Championship Meet, but also to drop time in both of my races, qualifying for the championship finals in the 50 Free and 100 Breast. On Saturday, I am just going to race and rely on my training and competitive spirit,” Hershberger said.
Accomplishing this would mean that all of his preseason goals would have been realized.
“My goals were to swim in college, make top eight at state, and to create a team environment that is inclusive, fun, and promotes practice attendance. I have accomplished two of the three,” explained Hershberger. “I accomplished my dream of swimming at a Division I level (he will attend Dartmouth next year). I have also succeeded, with the help of my fellow captains, in creating a team dynamic that makes everyone feel involved and makes practice more enjoyable.”
Hershberger’s leadership is not, and never has been, limited solely to the pool.
“Parker Hershberger’s above 4.0 GPA, four-year state-qualifying swims, two-time national record holdings, and scholastic All American Award are nothing compared to the work he has done for the homeless in Indianapolis. His servant leadership as an 8th grader was more than I’ve seen in most adults,” attested Brebeuf Athletic Director Ted Hampton. “Parker is a young man who will undoubtedly heed the words of St. Ignatius and ‘go forth and set the world on fire.’ I’m really looking forward to seeing him and the rest of the team swim this weekend.”
This year’s swim will be a little different than Hershberger’s past three as the vast majority of his teammates will be joining him.
“I am most excited to be on deck with nine of my teammates. Last year, it was great to have three other teammates on deck, but to have the whole team there swimming will be something special. The past few championship meets I have participated in, I have been solo on deck, so Friday will be a nice change,” Hershberger confided.
He will be joined by fellow seniors Brendan Donahue and Alex Null. Both Donahue and Null had set goals of reaching the State Finals in their 200 yard relays (Free and Medley, respectively). To Donahue’s surprise, he will also be swimming in the 400 Free Relay.
Donahue (who will be attending New York University next fall) stated, “My goal for this weekend is simply to get a career best time for our 200 Free relay. Since it is my last high school meet, I want to finish strong.” He also added, “I look forward to watching all the underclassmen have fun at their first State meet.”
Null shared these sentiments.
“I am most excited for another chance to swim with my teammates at State, because it has been such a fun year,” explained Null. “We have put in a lot of hard work, so it’ll be fun to be able to swim in State and see how it has paid off.”
Those teammates include three sophomores and a freshman. Sophomore Jack Kovach will be making his second state finals appearance of the school year and third of his career. Last year, he was a part of the state qualifying 200 Free Relay team. Earlier this year, he represented the Braves at the cross-country finals. Things were looking promising for this swim season until an injury derailed his plans.
“Breaking my wrist in November threw a wrench into my goals for this season as I wasn’t able to fully start practicing until late December. However, I didn’t let this stop me from having a successful year. I still wanted to help a relay advance to state and swim sub 1:50 in the 200 free; the first of which I accomplished and the second I came 25 hundredths of a second away from. Overall, I am happy with my performances,” Kovach attested.
His fellow sophomores did not come into the season with such lofty expectations.
“When the season first started, I was hoping for nothing more than improving my old swim times,” shared Miller. “Through the season I met a whole cast of wonderful people and friends. While yes, my swimming DID improve considerably, the biggest accomplishment I’ve had is getting to know the fantastic people behind the Brebeuf swim team.”
“In November of this year, I did not intend on swimming,” admitted Sheffield. “I had my sights set on making the basketball team. I had spent most of the year training and playing in hopes of making the JV team and saw swimming as a fallback if basketball did not work out. Getting cut from the team, although I thought otherwise, was a great thing to happen to me. I really didn’t have a perspective of high school swimming coming into the season, so I did not know where I should set my goals. My only consistent goal each meet was to try to go faster; to get a personal record if I could. I could not be happier with how we’ve done this season.”
Each also has a different aspect of the event they are most looking forward to. Kovach is excited to share the pool with possible future Olympians. Sheffield is anticipating the post-competition highs and adrenaline rushes which usually follow his events. Miller will be focusing on the more intimate moments.
“I am excited for the small things that come with state, such as excited high-fives or surprised pats on the back from friends,” Miller revealed.
The Braves will kick-off the night in the first heat of the first event and finish in the first heat of the final one. Here’s to the enjoyment of many small things brought about by successes in the big ones on the state’s largest stage.
PS – Below, you will find personal messages from those interviewed for this article:
Parker Hershberger – Swimming is a very demanding sport and takes the support of everyone around you to succeed. To my family-thank you for your unwavering support and willingness to drive me to morning practices. To my teammates-thank you for always making practice enjoyable and dynamic. To my coaches-thank you for your dedication to the team and for always pushing me to excel. To my friends-thank you for being supportive and coming to all of my big meets.
Brendan Donahue – I’d like to thank my parents for always pushing me to do my best and being my biggest supporters. I have made some of my best friends on this team and will always have great memories of this team that has become my family.
Alex Null – We have the best coaches in the State and they did a tremendous job this year with getting everyone prepared for each meet, especially Sectionals. That is why we have 3 relays going to State this weekend along with other individuals who made it.
Jack Kovach – Quick shout-out to Coach Sayre for being one of the most understanding and positive coaches I’ve ever had by always being supportive and believing in me. Also Coach Shane for always motivating and pushing me to reach my full potential.
Ian Miller – I know everybody says this, but I really want to thank my mom and coaches for never giving up on me. Sometimes it’s hard for me to find motivation to wake up at 4 a.m. for practice, but my mom never failed to wake up before me and drive me to work-outs.
Robbie Sheffield – My family has been my rock throughout this season. My parents, my grandparents, my brother, and my sister were all there for me when basketball didn’t work out, and have supported me all the way through. My grandpa has been a personal coach and hype-man of sorts getting me pumped for every meet. My Grandpa and my family are the reason I am the swimmer I am today.