December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Boys swimming: Avon Lake’s Ethan O’Rourke driven to succeed

Ethan O’Rourke was right there in the hunt for the state cut during his junior season last year. He was on the bubble, but it didn’t happen.

O'Rourke

The Avon Lake swimmer missed qualifying to state at-large for the 200-yard individual medley, just off by 0.74 of a second. He wasn’t quite as close in the 100 free, but his effort was still very respectable.

It’s a new season and a fresh start. O’Rourke is solid in his belief that he’s state material. If the Avon Lake swimmer comes through and makes it to the Big Dance, he’ll be the first Shoreman to achieve such distinction for a non-diving event since Brad Bartel took second in the 200 IM at the 2000 state meet.

Last year, O’Rourke finished seventh at the Cleveland State district in the 200 IM in a career-record time of 2:00.45. He eclipsed his seed time of 2:03.48. O’Rourke was ninth in the 100 free (48.70), beating his seed time of 48.97.

“It was a downer, but it’s a motivating force for me this season,” said the 6-foot-1, 153-pound O’Rourke. “Our coaching staff this year has been working us very hard. I’ve been putting more hours in the pool as well as with my dry land training. Everyone on the team has been working harder and putting in more time.”

Avon Lake has quite a tradition in the 200 IM. Bartel set the school record at the 2000 state meet in 1:49.99 behind future Olympian Mark Gangloff of Akron Firestone. Bartel holds the SWC record (1:54.57), one of six conference marks he still owns outright or shares.

“Our zone has a lot of talented guys,” said O’Rourke, who swims for the Avon Rec and Westlake Waves teams in the offseason. “It’s awesome to be pitted against the best. The 200 IM requires a lot of intrinsic motivation to keep going and take every wall what it can give you. Our sectional zone meet was an incredible experience. My goal is to try and get my time down to 1:56.”

“Ethan is a well-rounded, veteran swimmer,” Avon Lake coach Steve Manderfield said. “We look forward to a great year. He’s an asset to the team. So far we’ve seen a very strong effort, not only from Ethan but the entire team. Ethan’s very dedicated to the sport of swimming.”

O’Rourke maintains that this season isn’t only just about him. He wants to bring all of his teammates along for the ride.

Since 2003-04, the Avon Lake boys team has only finished as high as fifth once (2005-06) in the Southwestern Conference. It finished eighth last year, although it tied for sixth at the SWC meet. The Shoremen haven’t qualified a relay to districts since the 200 free relay advanced in the 2002-03 season.

A new coaching staff should help Avon Lake turn it around.

Manderfield may be the new coach, but he’s a familiar face to many. He coached the Avon Lake varsity from 2002-04 and coached the Avon Lake Recreation swim team for the last seven years. He’s assisted by Scott Pecze, Dan Smith and Joe Smith. Dive coach Chris Dalman is also new the staff.

“They’re all pushing us and each brings something unique,” O’Rourke said. “They’re showing that we’re capable of achieving something great.”

O’Rourke feels optimistic about what he’s experienced and seen so far since practice started on Nov. 4.

“As a team we’re trying to get there,” said O’Rourke, who has a 3.15-grade point average. “The new coaching system we have in place now has opened so many doors for us. We don’t see ourselves as a bottom-running team in the SWC anymore. Our relays should be much improved. We’re now focusing on winning the conference.”

Contact Paul Heyse at 440-329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.