Caleb Orchard got ready to step up on the block for the 100-yard breaststroke final at the Class 2A state swim championships, and the pressure hit him like a tsunami.
It was the Seabreeze senior’s sixth race of the day on Saturday, Nov. 19. He had taken a nap earlier after prelims and woke up with a fever. His brother and sister-in-law had flown in from Washington D.C. for the meet at Sailfish Splash Waterpark in Stuart. His girlfriend and her mother drove three hours. His parents and sister were there.
His prelim times were better than his final times in his previous two events. Now, this was his final swim. He had qualified sixth in prelim, and he wanted to finish in the top five.
He wound up placing fourth with a personal record 59.01 seconds.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been that stressed my whole life,” Orchard said. “The adrenaline probably helped me.”
Orchard also placed sixth in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 22.00 seconds earlier in the evening.
“He did really good. I’m really proud of him,” Seabreeze coach Samantha Fabulich said.
Seabreeze sophomore Mackenzie O’Keefe also got onto the podium with an A final finish. O’Keefe place eighth in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 2:00.34. She also placed 11th in the 100 butterfly with a time of 59.69.
“She came out really well, and she’s only going to get better,” Fabulich said. “She is probably one of the hardest workers I’ve seen along with Caleb, but she does it with the biggest smile on her face every time.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been that stressed my whole life. The adrenaline probably helped me.”
— CALEB ORCHARD
Orchard also swam the breaststroke leg in the 200-yard medley relay and helped the Sandcrabs reach the B final and 15th overall with a time of 1:45.16. Martin Montalvo led off with the backstroke, Dante DiPietro swam the butterfly and Cole Long swam the freestyle leg with his best split of the year at 24.01 seconds.
“We knew we weren’t going to do well in that relay, but we were trying to get in the top 16, and we were able to get 15th,” Orchard said.
Montalvo also swam in the 100 backstroke and finished 19th with a time of 56.70.
Freshman Addie Smurdon finished 21st in the girls 200 free (2:05.23) and 20th in the 100 free (56.52).
Orchard dropped 1.53 seconds from his regional time in the 100 breaststroke. While he was slower in the 50 free final than he was in his prelim at 21.78, he improved his breaststroke time from 59.41 in prelims.
He set personal records in both events despite the meet getting moved back a week because of Hurricane Nicole, disrupting the swimmers’ tapering schedules.
“He was under a minute (in the breaststroke), which is really impressive,” Fabulich said. “It’s amazing what he does not being a year-round swimmer and training for honestly about two months between lightning days and the hurricanes keeping us out of the pool. That’s his selling point, to tell a college coach, ‘I only train two months a year.’ It shows how much potential he has.”
Orchard said he was joining year-round swim club Hydro4 starting Thanksgiving week with the goal of walking onto a college swim team next year.
“People who finished first (at state) were so far ahead of the second- and third-place swimmers,” he said. “That was really motivational to me, that I need to put in a lot more work. It just shows you, people who win, this is their whole life. If I want to continue in the sport and be able to compete with them, I’ve got to train all year round.”