Chesterton Tribune



Blake Pieroni makes CHS history with Olympic swim team spot

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The American flag meant something a little more in Chesterton over the holiday weekend.

Chesterton High grad and current Indiana University swimming star Blake Pieroni was selected to the U.S. Olympic Swim team, becoming the first Chesterton swimmer to earn such an honor.

Pieroni will participate in the 400 free relay in next month’s Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s amazing,” Pieroni said. “This means everything to me. I’d like to thank all of the coaches that got me here.”

Pieroni set three different personal records in the 100 free, his last of which came when he finished in sixth place in last Thursday’s finals with a time of 48.78. While his time was good enough to qualify as a relay-only swimmer Ð the top two finishers also qualify for the 100 free Ð Pieroni was forced to wait several days for an official invitation while the rest of the roster was sorted out.

Pieroni received word on Saturday morning when a U.S. Swimming administrator handed him an invitation letter.

“He handed me a typed out letter and said ‘you’re going to enjoy this conversation,’” Pieroni said. “I was happy with the way I swam regardless if I made it or not. I’m very happy to have made it.”

As Pieroni received the news in Omaha, longtime coach Kevin Kinel beamed back in Chesterton. Pieroni swam for the Trojans from 2010-14 and was a three-time state champion in the 100 freestyle and a two-time state champion in the 200 IM.

“I knew he was an elite athlete the second I met him,” Kinel said. “He was one of those kids that was never satisfied, always looking at doing more and always looking at getting to the next level. Right away you knew he was something special.”

Kinel pointed to Pieroni’s leadership as a senior, saying that the swimmer was often motivational in the locker room with different quotes and goals he had for the team. Kinel also fondly remembered how much Pieroni wanted to emulate former Chesterton and Michigan star Kyle Whitaker.

“Kyle did a lot in terms of setting the bar for us and Blake always wanted to know along the way where he was at in comparison to Kyle,” Kinel said. “He set out to go and break all of Kyle’s records. That’s what you get with Blake. He’s such a racer and such a competitor. That’s the way he’s going to approach Rio. He’s the ‘Put me in Coach’ kind of guy.”

Pieroni plans on returning to Indiana this week before beginning an extensive training process prior to the start of next month’s Olympics. Recent FINA rules changes mandate that relay-only swimmers have to participate in the Olympics, so it’s likely that Pieroni will swim in the prelims in Rio before giving way to 100 free qualifiers such as Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel in the finals.

Regardless of when Pieroni finally gets in the pool, he’ll be doing it as an Olympian and he’ll be doing it while representing Chesterton.

“None of us are doing this for (the Olympics) as the only goal, but it certainly always drives you,” Kinel said. “There is no better honor than that. As far as our program goes, it’s the pinnacle. We’ll certainly use this as motivation, and the whole town of Chesterton will be incredibly proud. I’m sure we’ll have a celebration, I’m still not really sure the whole thing has set in yet. We’re very proud today.”


Posted 7/5/2016





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