Boys swimming: Valparaiso’s Andrew Antonetti hopes to make waves at state
By MIKE CLARK Post-Tribune correspondent February 11, 2013 11:06PM
Valparaiso's Andrew Antonetti shakes hands with Chesterton's Ethan Whitaker after the 200 Yard Freestyle during the DAC boys swim and dive meet on Saturday, January 28, 2012, in Crown Point. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 13, 2013 6:29AM
Andrew Antonetti’s road to the medals stand at last year’s state swimming finals was different from most.
The Valparaiso junior didn’t start swimming for the Vikings until last season and he didn’t even get into the sport until he was 9 years old.
But the path less taken has nonetheless proved to be a successful one. Antonetti finished fourth at state in the 500-yard freestyle behind three seniors, meaning he will be the top returnee in the event assuming he gets through this week’s LaPorte Sectional as expected.
Again, though, he’s taking a roundabout route to the distance races in Indianapolis in two weekends.
Valparaiso coach Adam Nellessen has used Antonetti in a variety of events this season, which is just fine with the Vikings’ star.
“I like to be able to fill the gaps where I’m needed,” Antonetti said. “I just don’t like swimming the 500 and 200 (free) every meet.”
“The way we’ve kind of approached it — he and I agree he’s best suited for our team (this way) — is to help where we have holes,” Nellessen said. “At the end of the day, (swimming the distances) is going to be there for him. To me, it’s like a bike — you never forget how to ride a bike.”
At the Duneland Athletic Conference meet, Antonetti was runner-up in the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
But he’ll be in the distances for the postseason. There he can expect a strong challenge from Chesterton junior Ethan Whitaker, who swept the distance races at the Duneland Athletic Conference meet, setting a meet record (4:40.85) in the 500.
“I’m not going to be fully tapered for sectional because we’re aiming for for state,” Antonetti said.
Still, he’s ready for the big stage.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious or nervous,” Antonetti said. “More than anything I’m excited.”
He’s also happy with the path he chose to get here.
Unlike the kids who started swimming at 6 or 7, “I played every other sport to stay busy,” he said.
But when his older sister Alex got into age-group swimming, he decided to as well. She has turned into one of his biggest fans, making sure he never settles: “She puts the fear in me if I swim a half-second over my best time.”
Then Antonetti decided adjusting to high school was enough of a job without adding the time required by a sport like swimming.
“I’m happy with the way it’s gone,” he said. “I don’t think I would have changed my decision. The workload is heavier, going from middle school to high school.”
Nellessen has no complaints, either.
“I’ve never met anyone who leads by example better than he does,” the coach said.
The hope for Nellessen and Antonetti is that the junior standout now will be setting the tone — and the pace — in the pool in the season’s biggest meets.