Shortly after Chris Konerman was named the new Beechwood swimming coach, he received an email from Austin Haney. The Tigers’ standout introduced himself as an incoming senior.
Konerman, who’s been around Northern Kentucky swimming all of his life as a competitor and coach, was stirred by Haney’s enthusiasm and his sincerity.
“Just coming in new and not knowing a whole lot about Beechwood, I was very impressed with him taking that initiative,” Konerman said. “I feel very fortunate to have him on the team my first year. He’s a solid citizen, a really good kid. Now that I’ve gotten to know him as a swimmer, I’ve been really impressed with his leadership and his work ethic and ability to get better.”
Konerman knows a special swimmer when he sees one. A longtime YMCA coach, he and his entire family were inducted into the Northern Kentucky Swim League Hall of Fame in 2012. The Konerman Family plaque hangs on the NKSL Wall of Fame, honoring 40 years of service to the sport.
Haney has been with the elite Northern Kentucky Clippers swimming program for 10 years, with several state and national-level meets to his credit, including a top-10 finish at August’s National Club Swimming Association Summer Championships in Indiana, where the Clippers placed fifth. Haney finished seventh in the 400-yard individual medley, 20th in the 200 freestyle and 23rd in the 200 IM.
On Saturday at the Scott Eagle Classic in Taylor Mill, Haney repeated as 50 freestyle champion in 22.45 seconds and won the 200 freestyle in 1 minute, 45.53 seconds. The victories denied team champion CovCath a sweep of the 11-event meet.
“That was pretty cool,” Haney said. “I won two events last year, too.”
He also won the 200 IM at last year’s Eagle Classic and was named the 2014 meet’s outstanding male swimmer.
When Konerman first saw Haney in the pool after becoming Beechwood coach, it didn’t take him long to notice Haney’s smooth strokes in the water.
“His strokes are meticulously clean and so consistent,” the coach said. “He’s really good, but he’s open to suggestion. He’s very coachable.”
Haney entered the high school season as the defending Region 4 champion in the 200 freestyle, one of four top-three finishes he had at last year’s regional at Silverlake. He won the 200 free by more than three seconds with a finishing time of 1:42.15, just 1.37 seconds off the record set in 2013 by former Covington Catholic great Max Williamson, now swimming at Stanford. Haney lowered it to 1:40.71 and finished third in the 200 free at the state meet.
A regional challenger since he was a freshman, Haney has emerged as one of Kentucky’s top swimmers with a chance to be a multiple winner at state. He’s so versatile that he’s a candidate to win state in whatever event Konerman chooses to race him.
Beechwood has just five boys on the swimming team, including junior Grant Lange and freshmen Max Shoyat and Jackson Anderson. With Haney, it seems like more.
“My main event is the 200 free, but sometimes I swim the 50 free and other times I swim the 100 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley, and I swim in some relays,” said Haney, a straight-A student at Beechwood. Division I college programs are showing him interest. “I’m the only senior on my team this year, so I feel like it’s my job to help us out as much as I can.”
In addition to the 200 freestyle, his specialty, Haney was strong last season in the 100 breaststroke. He placed fifth in the event at state in 58.74 seconds. Four of the five finishers ahead of him graduated. He was a half-second behind fourth-place Mike Summe (58.44), a returning senior at CovCath.
“My goals are to win my events at the regional and win at least one at state,” Haney said. “And I would love to swim in college.”