High School Sports

Ex-UK swimmer revs up Henry Clay program

Ripple effect.

It may be a while before the results from last weekend's Fayette County public school swim meet quell.

Henry Clay took the combined team title, stunning Paul Laurence Dunbar by four points — 1,139-1,135 — at Transylvania University.

Stunning because Dunbar has pretty much owned the title, winning eight of the previous nine years. (Tates Creek won in 2007.)

Not even Colin Faris, Henry Clay's first-year coach, expected his Blue Devils to win.

"Actually, no, I did not," he said. "I expected my girls to do well. Last year (the boys) lost three really big seniors (Chris Rush, Chris Gerhardstein and Nick Wrightson). ... Our boys are a lot younger."

Henry Clay's girls came through as expected, topping Dunbar 741-490.

Dunbar won the boys' team title with 645 points. Henry Clay finished a solid third with 398, trailing Tates Creek's 513.

"We've got a couple standout kids with Russ Bryant and Michael Rukavina and we have two really good relays — the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay," Faris said. "But, still, it was tough to see how we could do because all through the year we haven't been able to have a full squad, so I just didn't know how well we would do.

"It was really good. Not just our club swimmers did well, but actually our non-club swimmers did really well for us. And that's what surprised me more, were the kids that only swim for our high school team."

Many of the Devils swim and practice with club teams. Faris has the non-club swimmers for only four practices a week at the High Street YMCA, for a total of 4 hours, 45 minutes.

Faris isn't a whole lot older than his swimmers.

A fifth-year senior at the University of Kentucky, he is finishing requirements for a degree in secondary education math. He also coaches with the Beaumont YMCA Barracudas.

Faris, a state high school champion for St. Patrick in Maysville, swam four years for UK in the 50 and 100 freestyle. As a sophomore, he was part of the Wildcats' NCAA-qualifying 200 freestyle relay.

He has qualified to swim the 50 this summer in the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Faris is quick to share credit for Henry Clay's success with assistant coach Leah Pratt.

"She does a great job of picking out little things in terms of stroke technique and some of that," Faris said. "Just having that other set of eyes is really beneficial."

Fittingly for an aquatic event, Henry Clay won the Fayette County meet with depth.

The Devils' only first-place boys' finishes came from Bryant in the 100-yard butterfly and 200 individual medley, and Rukavina in the 100 free. Rukavina also placed third in the 50 free.

The girls got wins from Kelly Ren in the 100 free and Jamie Smith in the 500 free. Ren added a runner-up finish in the 100 backstroke and Smith took third in the 200 individual medley.

In the girls' 500 free, Smith led Henry Clay to a 1-2-3-5 finish.

The Devils had a pair of second-place finishes in girls' relays and two thirds in boys' relays.

On the horizon are some dual and tri-meet competitions. The all-city meet (including private schools) is set for Jan. 28.

Henry Clay can go into that meet with added confidence.

"It definitely helps (the psyche) a lot," Faris said. " ... That should bode well for us going into state as well."

Ripple effect.