MUNCIE — After a long sophomore season, Central’s Alec Hale felt like he was losing the passion for the sport he loves.
One of the leaders on the boys swimming and diving team, he advanced to the state championship as a part of the 200-yard medley relay team and individually in the 200 freestyle and 500 free last season. He didn’t advance out of the preliminaries.
Mentally, he said he tried to enjoy himself, but he was also a mess.
It was the second straight year he watched his season end in the preliminary round of state.
The long season took a toll on him, and so did the expectations he puts on himself. He won every solo event he was in at the sectional, feeling nervous the entire time.
“I felt like I had everyone watching me and everyone coming out to get me,” Hale said. “I like it, but I flipped out. I was totally burnt out.”
After both high school and club seasons ended, he stepped away and took a break from swimming. He traveled and cleared his head, knowing the relaxation would put him back in the proper mindset to be successful in the pool.
Now he’s back, looking to advance again to state and this time, be in the finals.
“It’s nice to make it down there for the state meet, but it gets old just watching the finals,” Hale said.
After losing senior leadership, Hale’s stepped into the role. Coach Steve Spradlin said he’s not overly vocal but carries confidence that younger swimmers feed off. Older swimmers that Hale looked up to are gone, meaning he has to slip into their shoes.
Hale’s been involved in Cardinal Community Swim Club since he was nine years old, and was part of the Catalina Swim Club before that. Although the pair knew each other before Hale started at Central, Spradlin didn’t start coaching him until his freshman year.
“He’s deep into swimming and swimming culture,” Spradlin said. “He likes to be pushed. He’s not too verbal, but he’s more of a, ‘I’m going to go do the work and let’s see who’s going to follow me.'”
Mentally, Hale said he feels completely refreshed. He took his mind back to his childhood, making cannonballs into the pool when he was little instead of racing the clock against other swimmers, all eyes on him.
He had to remember what made him love swimming in the first place.
“I’ve always been someone who gets anxious,” Hale said. “But when I enter the water, it just disappears. All of the worry goes away.”
Hale may worry about making it to state again, or how he’ll perform in the postseason. But after two years of watching the swimming and diving finals from the sideline, Hale’s tired of waiting.
With a clear mind, he’s hitting the clear water.
“I want to be down there,” Hale said. “I don’t want to be watching any more.”
Contact prep sports reporter David Polaski at (765) 213-5848. Follow him on Twitter @DavidPolaskiTSP.