Competitors at the Ironman swim meet expect their arms, legs and lungs to burn plenty on their way to completing eight events that add up to 1,350 yards.
Tuscola’s London Schumacher had to fight through yet another source of pain throughout the day’s longest race.
Her goggles slipped down as she dove in for the 500 free, allowing chlorine to instantly flood them and sting her eyes. She fought through the discomfort, and — even though she wound up losing that particular event — she won four other races to pull out a nearly six-second victory over Roberson freshman Mary Oliver Soule and repeat as the girls’ champion.
In the boys’ competition, Asheville High’s Luke Lechner swept all eight events and easily defended his title with a total time of 12 minutes, 50.31 seconds.
“The whole thing about Ironman is pushing yourself and seeing where your limits are,” said Schumacher, a senior who set meet records in the 200 individual medley (2:10.45), 100 fly (59.90) and 100 back (1:01.26). “It was pretty wild when my goggles fell off in the 500. It took a toll mentally … I thought to myself, ‘Of all the races for this to happen, it has to happen in the longest one.’
“I tried to fix them after the first turn, but it didn’t work,” she recalled. “So, on the second turn, I pushed them really close to my eyes and just put up with the chlorine burning.”
Soule won the 500 free and trailed by less than four seconds going into the final event. But Schumacher held off Soule in that 100 breaststroke race and finished with an overall time of 14:02.52.
Soule finished second overall (14:08.51). Roberson’s Alyssa Arwood won the 50 free and 100 breaststroke on her way to placing third overall (14:30.02).
“I thought I did really well,” Soule said. “I know London, she’s a great swimmer, so I knew it was going to be a great competition. It was exciting the whole entire time.”
There was no drama on the men’s side as Lechner had a lead of more than 30 seconds before the 500 free, which he won by more than a pool length. The North Carolina recruit’s overall time was more than 10 seconds faster than his winning mark from last year (13:01.04), and he was just more than a second off the Ironman record Tuscola’s Nathan Lile set in 2011 (12:49.03).
Not bad for a guy who swam the night before in a five-team meet at North Buncombe.
“He swam really great (Friday night), put on a really good performance,” Asheville High coach Keith Corbeil said. “I really didn’t want him to swim (Friday) because I wanted him to be at his best to repeat as champion, but he wanted to swim with his team. That says a lot about him.”
Michael Williams, who swims with the Trailblazers homeschool team, came in second overall (13:46.56).
Lechner admitted swimming the night before had an impact on him.
“I definitely felt it toward the end of the meet,” Lechner said. “But I held it together, so I was happy … This means a lot. It’s an honor to win it, and it’s a lot of fun.”