Athlete of the Week: Schenk gearing up for USA Junior Nationals
By Michael Bower
At 6-feet, 3-inches tall, you would think 16-year-old swimmer Grant Schenk spends most of his time looking down at his competition.
But it actually doesn’t happen often. Not because 6-3 is short for a swimmer his age, but because Schenk spends a majority of his time racing against college-aged swimmers and many of the elite competitors in the nation.
That was the case last weekend at the Speedo California-Nevada Sectional Championships in Santa Clarita and it will be the case again at the USA Junior National Championships in Indianapolis on Aug. 13.
“There are college kids that go and some of them are 6-5, 200-pounds,” said Schenk, who lives in Rancho Bernardo and will be a junior at Mt. Carmel in the fall. “It is always great competition. When you are trying to catch them or they are trying to catch you, I think that is what makes it fun. And it helps me a lot.”
It helps Schenk see exactly where he needs to be once he fills his frame. The reigning San Diego Section Division II champion in the 200-yard and 500 freestyle already got a taste of the highest level of competition, as he raced in the 1,500-meter freestyle event at the USA Olympic Trials in Nebraska in July.
“It was absolutely amazing,” he said of the experience. “By far, it was one of the most unbelievable experiences I have ever had.”
Schenk will be swimming the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyle along with the 100 and 200 butterfly events at the upcoming Junior Nationals.
He took third place in the 800 and fifth in the 400 at last week’s sectional championships.
For his efforts, Schenk is the Rancho Arbolitos Swim and Tennis Club Athlete of the Week.
“The sectional was really just a training meet since we have Junior Nationals coming up,” Schenk said. “I was kind of surprised in myself taking third place in the 800. I think overall it was a really good meet and I think it gave me a good healthy confidence heading into the Junior Nationals.”
Schenk will be tapering down his workouts over the next few weeks so he can be at full strength for the Junior Nationals. It will be his first year competing in the Long Course Junior Nationals.
“It will be nice to see if I can get in the top eight,” he said.
Pacific Swim coach Dan Peck has been coaching Schenk for nearly four years now. Peck believes Schenk has the drive to get better and that there is plenty of room for improvement.
“He has a lot more to go,” Peck said. “You see him stand next to college kids and you see that he has a lot more maturing to do and he is only going to get stronger. The fact that he continues to step up to bigger and better competition, and he has a lot of room to grow is a little scary.”
And Schenk hopes to one day take all his talent to the Olympics.
“I am hoping that in four years Rio comes into view,” he said, alluding to the 2016 Olympics. “But right now, I am just focusing on getting my next trial cut and starting to look at colleges and things like that.”
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