Drew Reitz always knew he was good at swimming. But until his sophomore year, the Sartell senior never even tried out.
He had other things to do.
“I slept,” he said.
The Sabres’ boys swimming and diving team is really happy that Reitz decided to cut back on his snooze time. He’s a key scorer for a team that finished second in the state Class A true-team championships Saturday for the second year in a row.
Sartell (7-1) has an interesting nonconference meet at 6 p.m. today at Melrose. The Melrose/Sauk Centre Fusion are coming off a program-best fourth-place finish at the state true-team meet.
“That’ll be a good meet,” Sartell head coach Jason Anderson said. “Melrose is a good team and Nathan (Meyer) is a fantastic coach.”
Anderson can only recall a handful of swimmers in his 22 years in coaching who have done what Reitz has, going out for the first time as a sophomore and becoming a state entrant.
It’s a sport where the elite usually start swimming competitively in elementary school. Late arrivals to the sport are generally too far behind to be state-caliber.
“It’s a skill-drive sport,” said Anderson, who knew about Reitz because he participated in his summer camp in elementary school. “There are a lot of skills to learn.
“It takes time and experience.”
Anderson calls Reitz “the prodigy.”
“He’s a real fired-up kid when it comes to swimming,” Anderson said. “He’s an intense athlete who works hard.
“And he’s very, very competitive.”
And yet, until 10th grade, he didn’t compete at all. Then, he tried soccer and became friends with Jack Hellie, who encouraged Reitz to give swimming a try.
He’s glad he did.
“In the winter, I just stayed home and didn’t really do much,” Reitz said. “It was boring.
“I decided to try something, get active.”
Reitz, of course, is about more than swimming. He spent time last July in Sierra Leone working as a volunteer.
It was eye-opening. “You always hear about all the needs in Africa,” he said. “I had to see it.”
He helped out at an orphanage and did work at a refugee camp for 10 days.
“It was very moving,” he said. “I’d love to go back.”
In the meantime, he’d like to get back to the state meet and see if he can help Sartell surprise Brainerd in the Central Lakes Conference championships.
He’s a key cog on the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 26.80 in the 50 backstroke. He has swam at state in that event. He’s also been to state in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
His best time in the 50 freestyle is 23.08. He has a 51.75 in the 100 freestyle.
“It’s kind of sad to see the year ending,” Reitz said. “Our goal is to be All-American in the medley, which is totally possible.”
To earn prep All-American status, the Sabres need to go 1:36. They’re at 1:41 at the moment.
Reitz said swimming is ideal for him.
“I like how low-key swimming is,” he said. “There’d be too much pressure if I was in a sport that got a lot of attention.”
He plans to continue his swimming career in college. He plans to attend either Luther in Iowa or Gustavus Adolphus.
“I’m thinking about teaching, but I’m not entirely sure about it,” he said.
There is the rest of his high school career to focus on first.