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Hentenaar starts weekend meet with solid swim

POSTED: July 13, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Larry Wynn/For the Barrow County News

Ian Hentenaar leaps off the block and into the pool to start his first event of the Bulldog Grand Slam, the men's 800-meter freestyle, Thursday afternoon. Hentenaar would finish second in his heat.

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While Thursday’s kick-off incited far less applause and opened to a smaller crowd than most of this weekend’s events are likely to do, the first day of the Bulldog Grand Slam invitational swim meet meant a great deal to one local athlete.

Winder-Barrow student-athlete and member of the Athens Bulldog Swim Club Ian Hentenaar participated in the first of his seven events for the weekend Thursday afternoon when he took to the pool for the men’s 800-meter freestyle.

Although Hentenaar’s preference is for the shorter sprints, he was able to finish second in his heat with a time of 8:58.86 despite seeding 14 overall and fourth in his heat.

In order to finish that well, Hentenaar had to drop 20 seconds from his seeding time (9:18.67) and outlast a number of strong competitors.

"It felt well-deserved because I’ve definitely picked up my training," Athens Bulldog and Winder-Barrow Swim Dogg Ian Hentenaar said of his Thursday performance.

Outlasting was undoubtedly the key to Hentenaar’s success as his first few splits put him behind the pack. After two full laps, Hentenaar was in fifth place and was turning in splits of more than 34.5 seconds. His slowest recorded split, ignoring an error in the system that once gave Hentenaar a 43 second split, was 35.17 seconds.

Even on that leg, though, Hentenaar managed to gain a spot while other competitors fell away.

"I knew after the middle of the race that it was going to be good because I wasn’t tired at all and I was right next to somebody who was already seeded ahead of me, so I knew I was going to get a fast time," Hentenaar explained.

At the race’s midpoint, when less experienced swimmers started to learn their limits, Hentenaar was able to actually improve his split times and gain ground on the field.

The Winder native took third place for one lap before finally getting past his nearest competitor and grabbing the second place spot for good. Although Taylor Delk of Swim Atlanta, who would eventually win the second heat, was too far for Hentenaar to catch, the final few legs of the race just required a steady and constant effort.

"It’s hard to measure it out because at the beginning of the race you’re not tired at all and you’re going really, really fast and you don’t even realize it, but you have to hold back and feel like you’re going slow to conserve energy," Hentenaar elaborated. "Usually I breathe to the left every time I can, and that just helps save oxygen until later in the race. And I don’t use my legs at all until the end.

"What the coaches tell you is to get faster, and that’s what works best."

Hentenaar sought out his rhythm over the first six laps and turned in a respectable average split time of 33.92 seconds. Over the final ten laps, though, he shaved nearly a half second off of his splits for an average of 33.53 seconds.

Somewhat counter intuitively, Hentenaar’s fastest laps, ignoring the first lap which includes a diving start and a significantly faster time, were his final two. The final stretch to the wall took Hentenaar just 33.26 seconds, while his return trip for the finish was a staggering 31.29 seconds.

Were Hentenaar to average that speed, he would have been seeded first overall for the event.

While the young swimmer knows that he has a long way to go before directly competing against the nation’s and the world’s fastest, Hentenaar’s improvement in the 800-meter put his time just two seconds slower than the slowest seeded time in the fastest heat.

Jeffrey J. Durmer of the Dynamo Swim Club seeded eighth in the first and fastest heat with a time of 8:56.69. Then again, the fastest seeded time in that same heat was Swim Atlanta’s Cody Bekemeyer at 8:25.00, so Hentenaar would still have a ways to go.

Still, he takes encouragement from having dropped 20 seconds in one race and hopes that the one solid performance could inspire six more.

"Usually when I have good meets, it’s always determined by the first race. I think it’s pretty good to be dropping a ton of time," Hentenaar acknowledged. "That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll drop tons of time in my other events, but it’ll definitely mean better times at least little bit."

The Athens Bulldog contributes much of his improvement to the opportunities he has had over the last few weeks to train directly with some of the best swimmers at the University of Georgia. As a member of the ABSC, Hentenaar has access to some of the best facilities and intra-squad competition in the country.

With these new competitors alongside him, Hentenaar says he has been able to pick up some priceless lessons and experience.

"We do long sets just like that, like the 800 four times through, and that really helps. Being next to the college swimmers helps me pace and helps me train harder. It’s good training," Hentenaar noted.

Perhaps much of his success in the 800-meter was directly due to the time spent swimming besides UGA’s best.

Hentenaar was also slated to participate in the preliminaries of the 200-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly on Friday, along with the 200-meter butterfly preliminaries on Saturday, the results of which will be featured Wednesday’s follow-up story.

After three grueling races earlier this weekend, Hentenaar looks to have a busy Sunday with the 200-meter individual medley and the 100-meter freestyle this afternoon.

The young competitor is comfortable in both distance and sprint events, but he acknowledges that his skill tends to lean more towards the distance events.

"I feel like I have more control instead of the short distances where the only main set is go. In the distances, you have longer to go and more strategy," Hentenaar explained.

Although Hentenaar was not expecting to make the finals in any of his later events, he still gets to play a part in one of the most hotly contested swim rivalries in decades since he will be swimming up against Olympians Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps once more Sunday afternoon in the 100-meter freestyle.

Phelps brings a seed time of 48.89 seconds to the final heat of the day while Lochte’s seed time of 48.83 seconds places him in heat 15 as to avoid an early showdown of what should be an incredible finals race Sunday evening.

Lochte and Phelps swam without Hentenaar in the 100-meter backstroke on Saturday, but the trio did meet indirectly during Friday’s 100-meter butterfly prelims. Lochte was seeded in heat 14 with a 51.65 while Phelps was in heat 12 with a 52.11.

Hentenaar seeded in heat 5, but he was just under 10 seconds behind the elites with an impressive 1:01.39 seed time.

Although Hentenaar understands the exceptional challenge of swimming against such world-class athletes, he also realizes that there are exceptional benefits to facing increasingly and sometimes ludicrously difficult competition.

"I’m trying to compete with a different level of swimmer and not just what I’ve been competing with since I was little. I always try to compete with new people," Hentenaar said.

With the Bulldog Grand Slam turning into an elongated practice for Hentenaar, the intelligent swimmer has a plan for what aspects he hopes to improve upon the most after this weekend’s events, saying that he most hoped to improve his speed and power.

Then again, with the Grand Slam as a home meet, Hentenaar also looks forward to having the support of his family and friends, while knowing that much of the audience will be there for the grand showdown between two of swimming’s most polarizing and electrifying players.

"I’m pretty sure it’s going to go very well. A bunch of people are coming to see me, but also to see the world class swimmers," Hentenaar admitted. "I think it’s gone very well."



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