It was no surprise that the two eldest sons of Purdue men’s swimming coach Dan Ross would be successful in the pool.
Matt, the middle son, still holds a Harrison record. Eric was a sectional champion for the Raiders. Both went on to swim collegiately, Matt at Rose-Hulman and Eric at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis.
The third Ross son will soon decide between Southern Illinois, Purdue and Carthage, but he’s hoping to swim in two more high school meets.
Andy Ross will lead the Raiders at the Zionsville Sectional, which holds preliminaries tonight to qualify for Saturday afternoon’s finals. Sectional champions and swimmers who exceed state cut times qualify for the IHSAA state championships the following weekend in Indianapolis.
“The other two boys always talked about how Andy was the most talented of all three of them, and they are quite correct,” Harrison coach Beth Brown said Wednesday. “He is as fast or faster than his older brothers in every single event at the high school level. He is the only athlete I have ever had that has made a personal record in an event in every single competition his senior year.”
What’s the secret of Ross’ success, besides good swimming genes?
“I don’t really know where that came from,” Ross said of his senior times. “I think that after sophomore year is when I really started to improve, really started to get serious about the sport. I think it’s finally coming around this year. All the hard work I’ve done the past three years has paid off.”
Brown calls Ross her “utility athlete” in that she can place him in any event and he’ll score points. Ross is the top seed in the breaststroke by two seconds, but Brown is hoping he can also help the second-seeded medley relay team set a school record.
The Raiders will need every point they can get to compete with sectional favorite Zionsville. Brown is doing everything she can to give Harrison its best chance, including shuffling the lineup of the 200 freestyle relay team, which is seeded fifth.
“I want to see our relays qualify for the state,” Brown said. “Every coach has to decide which relay they are going to load. Normally, I’ve loaded the first one and the last one, the 400 free, but this year we’re going to go with the two shorter relays and see how that works.
“The other thing we have to do (tonight) is we have to swim well enough to qualify as many guys in the top 16 as possible because all 16 places score. There’s only one event that I know of right now that we have to fight to get all three of our guys qualified for the top 16 spots, and that’s the 50 freestyle. We have to swim better than our seed times.”
Ross will be the lead swimmer in the 200 free relay and will tackle the breaststroke in the 200 medley relay. Tonight, though, fans and rivals won’t likely see Ross at his fastest, and that’s by plan.
“I want him to swim well enough to be in the top three in his individual events,” Brown said. “He doesn’t have to lay all his cards on the table (tonight). He won’t shave down fully. He won’t wear a speed suit. He won’t do all of that until Saturday’s meet. Everybody else on the squad will be fully rested, shaved and tapered because that’s what we need to do with them in order to qualify them for state.”
Ross said that while growing up, he didn’t feel any pressure to follow in his parents’ footsteps, or those of his brothers. But in middle school, he thought about giving up swimming to try track and field.
“A lot of my friends that were in the sport with me quit,” Ross said. “Sometimes I didn’t really want to keep going, but as I got to high school and this team, I wanted to stay with it.”
This past September, Ross took an official visit to Purdue and saw a different side of his father.
“It was kind of weird to hear my dad use his recruiting voice,” Ross said. “He wants me to do well, and he knows if I want to go to Purdue or don’t go to Purdue, he’s going to support me either way. It’s really comforting knowing he’s going to support me no matter what.”
Whether Ross attends Purdue or not, he’s already gone through one senior day with the Boilermakers. Andy served as the public address announcer at home meets, and his father made him part of last Saturday’s celebration.
“It was a little weird,” Ross said. “He took the microphone and said, ‘Now I’ve got to introduce you.’ I’m like, what? ‘You’ve got to go walk up there with the other seniors and wave to the crowd.’ It was weird, a high school senior getting introduced on Purdue senior day.”