ND's Kuper takes his final shot at a state title

Friday, February 10, 2006

Jameson Kuper entered his senior season at Notre Dame with little to prove in the pool.

Kuper is a three-time all-state swimmer and has competed at some of the nation's elite swimming competitions. About the only thing lacking from Kuper's list of accomplishments is a state title, something he will try to rectify this weekend at the state swimming meet.

The meet will begin today at the St. Peters Rec-Plex. The finals are set for Saturday.

"It's a short-term goal," Kuper said of winning a state title. "It's always been a thought in my mind to be state champion. Sometimes you have to sacrifice short-term goals for long-term goals. It's more about times.

"Colleges aren't worried about state championships. State championships are a nice thing to have, but the times are a lot better."

Kuper made the state qualifying cut in every individual swimming event, but will compete in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200 free at the state meet. Swimmers are only allowed to compete in two individual events. Last year, Kuper finished third in the 100 breast and seventh in the 200 free.

"I was teetering on four or five events. It wasn't until late in the season I chose the 100 breast and 200 free," Kuper said.

In the breaststroke, Kuper's times compare favorably with the top breast strokers in the state. Defending champion Jared Lender of Parkway Central is one of the favorites again this season.

Last year, Kuper came into the state meet with a seeded time of 1 minute, 2.05 seconds and swam 59.90 in the preliminaries. In the finals, Kuper finished in 1:00.36, a little more than a second off the top time.

"As of right now for the 100 breast, there's three swimmers, including myself, that are under 1 minute," Kuper said. "I think a :57 will win it."

Kuper said his times have been much better during the season this year than last. With the proper recovery time, he expects to be able to swim near 57 seconds at the finals.

"This year, I've been 1:00 in season," Kuper said. "I should be 57, maybe 58. Really, it just matters how well I hit my taper. I think it's definitely attainable."

Kuper has not lost an individual race yet this season. Despite his success this season, along with his previous state success, Kuper still feels the nerves of racing in his final high school competition.

"The experience does help, but this is a very nerve-wracking meet," he said. "I don't remember being this nervous last year. I think it's because it's my senior year. Competition will be the same, but I think it's my last one, I want to make my school proud. I want to show the St. Louis schools you don't have to be from St. Louis to win something."

This will be the third appearance for Kuper at the state meet. Kuper finished eighth in the 200 free as a freshman but did not swim for Notre Dame his sophomore year in order to log more time in the pool with his club team. During the high school season, Kuper still makes the trip to Carbondale, Ill., several times a week to practice with the Saluki Swim Team.

Lenny Kuper, Notre Dame coach and Jameson's father, said the week of the state meet has been full of emotions, but he feels the work Jameson has put in should come through.

"As much time and effort he's put into this sport, he couldn't be more prepared for this," Lenny Kuper said.

This will only be the end of one phase of Kuper's swimming career. Next year, Kuper plans to swim collegiately, with Minnesota and Southern Illinois among the schools he is considering.

"What I have going for me now is I'm still improving," Jameson Kuper said. "So I think I'll get more money and more offers later in the year."

More Bulldogs

Unlike last year, Kuper will not be the only Notre Dame swimmer competing at the Rec-Plex. The Bulldogs qualified both their 200 medley and 200 free relay teams.

The 200 free relay missed the state cut by less than a second at the conference meet on Feb. 2, but came back the next day and made the cut in a time trial at Central Municipal Pool.

"What a surprise to qualify that second relay," Lenny Kuper said. "We had our hopes, and to have that fulfilled, what a perfect way to end the season."

Jordan Voss, Kuper, Adam Reinagel and Lance Carroll make up the 200 free relay team. Voss, Kuper, Reinagel and Edward Doyle make up the 200 medley relay.

"Only positive things can come out of it for the guys going with the relay," Lenny Kuper said. "State meets sort of pump you up for continuing the sport and getting better at the sport."

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