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Wed. August 25, 2010 | Eduardo A. Encina

Wharton senior Blair Kuethe is a thinker. She can’t help but keep trying to contemplate what will make her better, even when she’s in the pool midstroke. That’s why she is being recruited by some of the top programs in the country. First, there’s a senior season in which she wants to improve on seventh-place finishes in the 100 free and 200 free in last year’s 3A state meet. She took time out to talk about recruiting, her future and what goes through her mind in the pool.

What are your personal goals for this year?
I want to get my personal best times in the 200 and the 100 freestyle and just improve on what I did in the finals. Last year in prelims at state I got second and then I didn’t have a good final swim, so I want to bring it back to finals and bring my “A” game. I also want to sign with a college. I’m going through recruiting right now, so that’s interesting.

How is recruiting going?
It’s definitely crazy. I have trips set up for Florida State, Kentucky and South Carolina. I’m also looking at Alabama. I want to be somewhere on the top (of the team) so I can be on relays and stuff, but I also want something to live up to. Academics are going to be really important.

You switched last year to the 200 free from the 50 free. How big of an adjustment is that because they’re two very different events?
There’s definitely a lot of strategy in the 200. You have to take off fast but you don’t want to dive in. So compared to the 50, I would say the 200 is more personal. I know what I need to do to swim my best in the 200. In the 50, it’s more competitive. Anyone can win the 50 at states, it’s just a matter of who has the best swim at that time.

What’s college recruiting like in swimming?
Compared to sports that are games where it’s more subjective, I think swimming is easier. It’s like, “These are my times in black and white, take it or leave it.” I would say it’s a little easier. It definitely has its advantages.

Last year, Wharton had Jordan Rees (now at Louisville), one of the best sprinters in the state. Anything you learned from him by being around him on a daily basis?
When he steps on the blocks, he’s so in the zone and he’s so focused. I would say I’ve learned that from him. When he steps in the water, it’s like game on. I think about things a lot. I think about my stroke and my technique. He just goes for it.

Preseason top five
1. Plant:
The defending region champion Panthers are much younger this season, but nonetheless high on talent.
2. Wharton: The Wildcats lose a key contributor in Sarah Menendez but their relays should still be a strength.
3. Sickles: Always strong throughout, the Gryphons will again be one of the best in the county, led by sprinter extraordinaire Katie Cook.
4. Tampa Prep: Newcomer Rebecca Werdine makes Terps better. Emma Siewert is one of state’s best in the 100 fly.
5. Academy of the Holy Names: Senior Paige Russell, a state scorer in two events last year, anchors a young Jags team looking to defend its district title.

Five players to watch
Blair Kuethe, Sr., Wharton:
Swam All-America time in 200 free at state, finishing seventh
Kayley Chevalier, Jr., East Bay: Top 10 state finisher in 200 IM
Emily Clifford, So., Plant: 100 breast specialist placed eighth in state, anchors Panthers’ youth movement
Katie Cook, Sr., Sickles: County’s top sprinter swam All-America consideration times in 50 and 100 free with top-five finishes at state
Rebecca Werdine, Jr., Tampa Prep: Plant transfer already owns four state medals entering her junior season

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