Ben Leutz, 18, is a competitor by nature and that has served him well while swimming for swim teams, including the YMCA. A senior in high school, who swam for JHS swim team for four years, he has qualified for the 2017 YMCA Short Course Nationals which took place April 3-7 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Leutz has been swimming for the Shark Swim Team at the Bob Freesen YMCA since he was 6 years old. Even back then he wanted to win every race he swam in. He was also one of a small group of swimmers to qualify for the YMCA State Swim Meets some years as a young swimmer.
This year, after the JHS Swim season ended, Leutz went to the YMCA Illini District Championship in Springfield on March 4-5. He was seeded first in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:00.09 (State qualifying time is 1:08.49 and National qualifying is 1:01.09). Ben won the event with a 58.97. Less than two seconds from the meet and pool records held by Olympic Gold Medalist Ryan Held, who swam for the Springfield YMCA. Ben also qualified for YMCA Nationals in the 50-yard freestyle, his best time in this event was 21.86.
On March 18-19, Leutz traveled to St. John, IN, for the Illinois YMCA State Swimming Championship. Other Shark swim team members who went to the State meet along with Ben were: Jon Leutz (Ben’s younger brother), Braxton Cook and Greta Bryson-Adams.
YMCA Swim Coach Danielle Schnake, who accompanied Leutz and the other swimmers to the District and State meets said, “Originally Ben was seeded seventh in the 50 free, but with his competitive spirit I knew he wouldn’t be satisfied.” Leutz wasn’t, after his swim he had placed 3rd in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.61. He also placed first again in the 100-yard breaststroke.
He was the only swimmer on the YMCA Sharks team to travel to Greensboro, NC to compete in the 2017 YMCA Short Course Nationals. 25-metre pools are typically called short courses and 50-metres pools are called long courses.
The YMCA lists some of differences between the short and long courses as:
- Short courses have an extra turn
- There is an increased speed after each turn
- There is a period of inactivity after each turn
- The period of inactivity lowers the heart rate of the swimmer
At the prelims the morning of April 6, Leutz was seeded 41st out of 141 swimmers in the 100-yard breaststroke, Leutz turned on the speed and made the finals with a time of 58.33. He swam the 50-yard freestyle immediately after his breaststroke race and placed 72nd out of 146 swimmers with a time of 21.85. At approximately 6:30 p.m. that same evening, Leutz was fired up and on the blocks again for the 100-yard breaststroke finals, when he finished he had placed 20th, moving up 21 places, with a personal best time of 58.00!
If swimming was the only sport Leutz participated in it would be an impressive record in itself for an athlete. However, this young man played as a forward on the JHS Varsity Soccer team his junior and senior year, ran Track and Field in his junior and senior year (now that the National swim completion is over), and he is a competitive water skier.
As a matter of fact, although he says he has been growing in swimming, Leutz says water skiing is his personal favorite sport. His skills are obviously impressive as he has placed in Nationals as well in water skiing: 5th in Slalom (Slalom water ski requires participants to be on one ski and have to travel around 25 buoys on the course with increasing speeds), 15th in Trick (Trick water skiing is more technical than slalom and jump and participants have to use special skis), and 2nd in Jump Skiing (jumping over a ramp to get the most distance). They also combine the three events for an Overall Competition in which he placed 3rd in Nationals.
Leutz says no matter what he does he is motivated or driven to be the best. He looks up to swimmers like Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps and other driven swimmers.
When asked if he has any rituals or foods he eats before he races, he said he eats pasta for the two nights prior to a race. Other things he does is wakes up and listens to some hard workout music, nap before a race, put on sweats and a jacket, has a small Gatorade and 2 teaspoons of honey before he goes to race. He has a stretching routine and has someone put on his cap.
His plan is to go to the University of Alabama next year and major in Engineering – or maybe double major in Computer Engineering and Aerospace Engineering. When asked if he plans to swim or do another sport in college he says, “Definitely water ski and if I get accepted on the swim team, I might do that.”
What does Leutz do for fun? He says when he is not doing competitive sports or at school, he watches Netflix and he plays video games, but of course he is competitive about the video games too.