When O’Fallon High School senior Sean Workman left to compete in the IHSA Boys State Swimming and Diving Championships last week, he knew that the 200 yard individual medley was his to be won.
Undefeated in the event all season, Workman had the fastest time in the state by more then six seconds heading into the preliminary round on Friday.
But that wasn’t all that he wanted. Workman wanted the record, or at least he thought he did.
Swimming against the clock, Workman finished with a time of 1 minute 48.23 seconds, just slightly slower than the time of 1 minutes 48.08 seconds set by Jake Miller of Normal University High last year.
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Miller, one of the top high school swimmers in the nation who had already qualified for the 2016 United States Olympic trials in the 400 meter individual medley, committed suicide this past January.
“Jake was a good friend who battled depression. While I was a little disappointed, I knew I did the best that I could,” Workman said on Tuesday. “But it was almost like a relief that I didn’t take Jake’s name off the record board.”
The Belleville News-Democrat Athlete of the Week, Workman’s state title capped one of the best high school swimming careers in metro-east history.
Workman, who also placed fourth in the 100 yard backstroke, ends his Panther swimming days with four state medals and a scholarship to swim in the Atlantic Coast Conference beginning later this year at Virginia Tech University.
“I’m really excited about the future,” Workman said. “I actually got my letter of acceptance earlier this week for the second summer session, which begins in late June. I’ll be training with the varsity the second half of the summer.
“Virginia Tech is a great school. My goals are to be both an athletic and academic All-American in college.”
Workman plans on majoring in engineering at Virginia Tech.
He was seventh in the backstroke and third in the 200 individual medley a year ago, but after a year of nonstop training and competitive swimming with the Edwardsville Breakers Swim Team, Workman was simply one of the best swimmers in the state during the ’14-’15 season.
“I have really trained very hard in the past year. I bet the longest break I have taken has been two or three days, tops,” Workman said. “I feel like I’m at the top of my game right now.
“I think being a state champion was more of a vision than a dream-come-true. As the years progressed, I started to see that I actually have a shot at this. Then, this year, after the first couple of meets and I had the best time in the state, I thought this might be the year that I win it.”
In the 200 yard individual medley there were basically no challengers. It was Workman against the clock in the prelims.
“I knew my best chance at getting the record would be in the prelims because I would probably be too tired in the finals to go for the record,” Workman said. “I took it out the fastest that I could. I got a little bit tired. The second 100 yards was a little slower than it should have been. It was like .015 off the state record. I was a little disappointed, but like I said, I did the best that I could.”
On Saturday, Workman’s “vision” came true when he won the 200 yard IM at New Trier High School in Winnetka, finishing with a time of 1 minute 49.38 seconds.
“It’s really a surreal moment. It’s something you dream about, work and train for, and to have it come true is awesome, really awesome,” he said.
The state title was also special for O’Fallon coach Kim Eddy, who has watched Workman develop into one of the top high school swimmers in the state during his four years at O’Fallon. Workman ends his career the owner of six O’Fallon swimming records.
“Sean is an amazing athlete. His work ethic and passion for the sport is unmatched in any athlete I have coached,” Eddy said. “His leadership and dedication to the OTHS program has affected the program in a very positive way. His impact will be felt in the program for years to come.”