Morgan out to atone for last season
In this Jan. 6 photo, Loyola's Blake Morgan swims the 100-yard breaststroke at the Wildkit Invitational at Evanston. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:26AM
Boys swimmers might be some of the only teenagers who don’t look forward to winter break.
That’s because they spend many of their waking hours in the water, laboring to add mileage to their soon-to-be worn-out bodies.
Blake Morgan is different.
The Loyola senior actually loves practice, and he looks at the exercise in a decidedly positive light.
“For me, most of my enjoyment is driven around practice,” he said. “I love it before school, and I look forward to it after school. It’s a fun time to me.”
Loyola coach Mike Hengelmann said Morgan, who lives in Evanston, is a special breed when it comes to practicing.
“He has a whole new gear,” Hengelmann said. “He doesn’t seem to get tired. There’s no shortcuts for him. He attacks every set he does.”
Morgan also has increased his regimen outside of the water. He hit the gym hard in the offseason, incorporating muscle-specific exercises for swimming. That included rope training in which an athlete takes one end of heavy rope and moves it in an up-and-down motion to build upper-body strength in an aerobic fashion.
“It’s really helped my explosiveness,” he said. “I can already feel the difference.”
In his second season with Loyola’s varsity after transferring from Evanston following his freshman year, Morgan is especially motivated in the pool.
Although he swam in one individual event (500-yard freestyle, 15th place) and in the championship finals of two relays at the state meet as a junior, Morgan missed out on qualifying in the 100 breaststroke, maybe his best event, despite swimming under the cut most of the season.
“I was frustrated by that performance at the sectional,” said Morgan, who’s yet to score points as an individual at the state meet. “I definitely feel like I have something to prove, and I look forward to another shot at it.”
Hengelmann said the sectional was nothing more than an anomaly.
“Sometimes, you go slower during your taper because the body is uncomfortable,” Hengelmann said. “He just didn’t have a great day, but he’s moved past that. He knows what he has to do.”
At the team’s last meet before the new year on Dec. 15, Morgan finished first in both the 100 breaststroke (1 minute, .95 seconds) and 200 individual medley (1:59.14). Both times were less than one second off the state cuts.
Loyola is off until Jan. 5 when the Ramblers compete at Evanston’s invitational, where many of the state’s top teams will be in the field, including two-time defending state champion New Trier, Lake Forest, St. Charles North and Naperville North.
“Blake came into this year with a focus,” Hengelmann said. “He’s made a lot of strides in the weight room and with his dryland training. He’s on a mission to score individually at the state meet. That’s a goal of his, and it’s a goal of mine for him.”