O'FALLON — Sean Workman has that natural athletic ability that sets him apart from others.
But the 17-year-old swimmer from O'Fallon also has a good work ethic, drive and determination. One of the top high school swimmers in the state, Workman has already drawn attention of NCAA Division 1 coaches and hopes to compete at that level after he graduates from O'Fallon High School in 2015.
But his dreams don't end there.
"Some of the dreams I have are to win YMCA nationals, get a great scholarship for both swimming and academics, and compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100-meter backstroke or the 200-meter individual medley," Workman said. "I'm two seconds off the cut right now.
"Some would say my dreams are a long shot, but my response to that is, "you can't tell me the sky's the limit when there's footprints on the moon."
Anyone who knows Sean Workman has learned to never count him out.
Competing in the IHSA State Swimming and Diving Championships at Evanston High School last week, the O'Fallon High School junior placed third in the 200-yard individual medley with a time 1 minute 51.55 seconds, and he placed seventh in the 100-yard backstroke in 50.83 seconds.
For those finishes, he received all state honors in both events and swam all-American cuts in both events.
Workman placed 22nd in the 100- yard backstroke a year ago, so just making the finals was an accomplishment.
"This was my first year ever making finals. The experience was overwhelming,'' he said. "Knowing that I was now among the elite high school swimmers in the state was an amazing feeling. Not just any state, either. Illinois is in the top three high school swimming states in the country.
"I just couldn't get my backstroke down for some reason. If I would have gone my best time (49.87), I would have finished third.
Workman was at his best in the 200 Individual medley.
"I was absolutely shocked at my IM! I had never been below 1:55 before the state meet, and I completely ignored the .54s, .53s, and .52s! When I finished, I looked up at the board in disbelief,'' Workman said. "I kept double-checking my lane number to see if I was looking at the right time and, sure enough, I was. The best part was I came back to finals the next day and went a 1:51 again! It definitely made up for the disappointing backstroke races I had.''
Sean Workman was 8 years old when he first jumped into a swimming pool to compete.
Michael Phelps he wasn't. The son of David and Maura Workman wanted to quit after his first practice.
"I had done every other sport and I was looking for something to do in the summer,'' Workman said. "My first practice was not at all as I expected. The day before my mom told me that I would only have to do two laps of swimming at practice. No one in my family had ever been a swimmer, so we didn't know what to expect.
"I went to practice that next day to find out that our warmup was a 300 (12 laps). To say the least, I wanted to quit swimming. However, I realized that my friend (Sam Kaeser) who got me into swimming in the first place could get though practice with ease, and kick my butt in a race. So, being the competitive kid I was, I continued showing up every day.''
Workman also swims as a member of the Edwardsville YMCA Breakers Swim Team and has qualified for such elite events as the YMCA Nationals, Speedo Junior Nationals and the AT&T Winter National Championships.
The Breakers' biggest meet is the YMCA Nationals. Workman was on a relay team that placed sixth, and he placed 14th and 22nd in his individual events.
"This year I'm coming into the season with a whole new mind-set,'' Workman said. "The goal is not just to make the 'A' finals in every event I swim (top 8), but try to become a YMCA National champion.''
An athletic family
Workman's mother, Maura, was a standout track and field athlete in high school while his dad, David, was a high school quarterback and played at Illinois State University.
Workman dreams of following in the footsteps of family members who have played college sports.
"My dad and grandpa did, so I feel obligated to keep the tradition going," he said. "However, it's not just the family tradition that is driving me to swim in college. I can't imagine myself not swimming. I feel as if there would be an empty hole in my life if I quit after high school.
"I'm not sure where I want to go. I have been in frequent contact with schools such as Virginia Tech, University of Iowa, Northwestern, and Ohio State, but I haven't really thought about where I would like to go. I would like to major in some form of chemistry or medical science.''
Setting the standard
Workman holds six school records at O'Fallon, where he served as team captain this past season.
Workman's one of four in the 200 medley relay and 200 free relay (both records were set in 2013). Workman also four individual records: 100 butterfly (2013) and 100 freestyle 47.84, 100 backstroke 50.83 and 200 IM 1:51.55 (all set in 2014).
O'Fallon coach Kimberly Eddy said Workman is simply one of the best swimmers she has coached.
"Sean is a natural and strong leader. He is also an exceptional athlete," she said. "I could use him anywhere in the lineup that the team was weak. He is truly a well rounded swimmer, but excels in backstroke and IM.
"As a junior, Sean has had an extremely successful year. He is not the type of athlete to be satisfied with one good year. He will continue to work harder than anyone around him and return next year for more success. He puts the work in to be a strong competitor seven days a week. Taking breaks and taking it easy are not things that Sean ever does when it comes to swimming or academics.''
Workman wasn't happy with 22nd-place in the 100 yard backstroke in the 2013 state finals.
So he went to work.
"Ever since I got slaughtered at state last year in prelims, I've been working harder than I ever have before," he said. "I think that, along with the support of all my coaches, friends and family, has to do with most of my success this year.
"However, I can do better. Just like I did last year, I am going to look at how I did this year and use it as motivation to come back in 2015 and make my name known.''
Relax, Sean, it already is.