Rockhurst senior Louis Behnen sets his alarm clock to buzz at 5 a.m. every morning. Even on the weekends.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
If you’re familiar with the life of a typical high school swimmer, this is not unusual.
But this is a bit abnormal: Behnen actually enjoys that aspect of the sport. He relishes waking up before the sun rises, putting on his cap and goggles and diving into the pool to swim a few miles. His morning starts in this fashion four days every week — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“There’s not a single aspect of swimming he doesn’t enjoy,” Rockhurst coach Paul Winkeler said. “He’s the kind of guy where, as a coach, you just try not to get in his way.”
Behnen transferred to Rockhurst from New York City before his junior year. When he did, he said he knew little about the school’s established swimming program.
Then he saw the banners. Rockhurst has won eight consecutive state swimming and diving championships. The Hawklets will try for their ninth straight title this weekend at the City of St. Peters Rec-Plex. Preliminary races will be held Friday, with finals starting at 3 p.m. Saturday in St. Peters (Mo.).
“It’s a program where people are counting on us,” Behnen said. “I want to continue that legacy. There’s a desire to do that.”
Behnen’s addition has been a perfect fit. In two years, he already has plenty of highlights to define his time with the state’s top swimming program.
In his first year, Behnen qualified for state in two individual events — the 500-yard freestyle and 200 individual medley — and finished in the top 10 in both. He was fifth in the 500 freestyle and ninth in the 200 individual medley.
He’s raised the bar in 2012. In the Springfield Invitational in mid-October, Behnen completed the 500 freestyle in four minutes and 32.35 seconds. The swim broke the meet record, the pool record and the team record. Beyond that, he became the first swimmer in school history to break a team record during the untapped portion of the season.
It was one of four victories Behnen totaled at the meet.
Ask him to pick a favorite among his high school moments, though, and you’re unlikely to receive an answer. Well, at least not yet.
“Talk to me after Saturday,” Behnen said. “... There’s definitely been those moments you remember, but I think state is the final judgment.”
His prognosis for the state meet looks promising. Behnen’s 500 freestyle swim is the fastest in the state this year — and faster than last year’s winning time — meaning he will take the No. 1 seed into the meet.
He’s also slated to swim the 200 free, in which he predicts a top-three finish. Behnen qualified in every event, but he chose the two longer distance events.
“I’ve always been more of an endurance-based swimmer,” Behnen said. “Some events can be so close and so short that anything can happen. In the 500 (freestyle), there’s so many chances to pull ahead of your opponent.”
Rockhurst is hopeful Behnen’s day will be enough to push the Hawklets to another gold trophy.
“I’m very pleased with how the team looks going into state and that we’re the best team we can be,” Winkeler said. “Our swimmers have grown up around this environment, so they’re used to knowing what it’s going to take. It helps they’ve experienced this before.”