By Mark Ambrogi
Center Grove High School boys swimming coach Brad Smith has been watching senior Sam Smith’s swimming progression since he was around 5 years old.
After all, Sam is his nephew.
“Sam’s determination and focus is his strength,” Smith said. “He sets his goals and lets little get in his way to distract him from achieving them. Sometimes it’s his fortitude and it can also be his weakness. He gets focused on that, and you can pry him off if he gets headed down the wrong path. This year he was definitely all guns forward and narrowed in on what he wanted.”
Sam placed fifth in the 100-yard butterfly in the IHSAA state finals Feb. 25 at the IU Natatorium at IUPUI.
“Sam has made drastic improvement in his aerobic capacity, his ability to go faster for a longer amount of time, and his underwaters off the walls,” Smith.
Sam said he made the most improvement in his endurance training, and his sprinting has gotten a lot faster this year.
Sam was part of Indian Creek’s 200 freestyle relay team with his older brother Joey that finished 14th in the state finals in 2021.
In August of 2021, Smith left his job as Indian Creek High School coach to become Center Grove Aquatics Center director. He became head coach of the high school boys and girls program after Jim Todd retired following the 2021-22 season.
After being homeschooled as a junior and concentrating on junior swimming, Sam decided he wanted to swim for the high school team because he had become close with high school swimmers during club season.
“Having my uncle as my coach was great; he is a great coach, and he has been my coach for a long time, so we are really close,” Sam said. “Neither of my parents swam; it was my uncle and cousins that got me and my brothers into swimming at a young age.”
Joey graduated in 2022 after being homeschooled as a senior. Sam left Indian Creek and was homeschooled as a junior.
Sam’s younger brother Nate is a homeschooled freshman but there is a possibility he will join Center Grove’s high school team next season.
“Making the decision to transfer (from Indian Creek) was not easy, but I think I made the right decision for me,” Sam said.
Smith said it’s a close-knit family.
“Sam has a very similar appearance and mannerisms to my late son Chase,” Smith said. “You see a lot of Chase in Sam and that’s just special.”
Chase, a top swimmer, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma at the age of 13. Following a long seven-year battle, Chase died at 19 in April of 2021.
“Not only did Sam and Chase have physical similarities, but they were also very close,” said Smith, whose daughter Kaitlin also swam.
Chase and Sam were teammates on the Indian Creek Swim program.
“As a teammate and a coach, Chase taught me so much and I’m glad I got to apply what l learned from him this year,” Sam said.
Sam will be swimming for the University of Southern Indiana in the 2022-23 season. It was the coaching staff that sold Sam.
“They are really nice, and they had a great first year of the program, so I think I fit in perfectly down there,” Sam said.
THE SMITH FILE
COLLEGE PLANS: Attending University of Southern Indiana to swim and study business.
HOBBIES: Swimming and video games
FAVORITE ATHLETE: Caleb Dressel
FAVORITE SUBJECT: AP Statistics
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Inception”
PARENTS’ NAMES: Michelle and Andy Smith