Austin’s jack of all trades

Published 5:21 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When the Austin swim team wants to go after one of their opponent’s better swimmers, they know who to turn to.

Sophomore Michael Thorsheim has turned into a multiple threat for the Packers this season as he has swam for career bests in six of the 11 events, while taking home multiple first place finishes in two different individual events and two different relay teams.

“It’s a tremendous advantage of any coach to have an athlete you can swing around to different events,” Austin head coach Lynn Gulbrandson said. “We don’t hesitate to use him to break up other team’s big events.”

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While some swimmers would like to focus on one or two main events, Thorsheim likes to see what he can do across the board. He has swam in everything from the freestyle, to the breastroke, to the butterfly.

“I don’t have a problem switching strokes. It’s always a new experience swimming a different event and it’s good to see what times I can get in them,” said Thorsheim, who made his varsity debut while he was in seventh grade. “I’d like to say I’m a distance swimmer, but I also like the sprints.”

After a successful freshman season, Thorsheim came into this season with a strong motive to improve, and he hopes to be swimming in the state meet by season’s end.

“I’ve really wanted to step up the intensity in my races,” he said. “I knew that High School is going by faster and I really wanted to start getting my times down.”

Some of that work ethic came from this past spring when Thorsheim and some of his teammates had a chance to club swim with swimmers from Rochester Century. The Panthers are one of the top teams in the state and they have some swimmers ranked nationally.

“No doubt about it Century’s a good team,” he said. “They train hard, they swim year round and it shows. I’m a pretty devoted swimmer but with Austin not having a swim club, it’s hard to go year round.”

Gulbrandson said Thorsheim has also stepped up as a leader, despite being an underclassmen.

“He’s one of our practice leaders and setting the pace in practice is a tough thing,” he said. “It’s easier to get behind somebody and let them set the pace, but he leads one our lanes and he sets pace.”

And while it’s nice to have a swimmer he can throw into virtually every race, Gulbrandson knows he will have to narrow Thorsheim to just four events when the Section meet rolls around Feb. 26 and 28.

“If I had to guess, the distance looks good for him,” Gulbrandson said. “His 500 looks good and he’s an excellent 200-freestyler, even though we’ve only used him there once. He’ll also swim on our relays.”

Until then, Thorsheim will continue hitting the pool. And he’ll continue getting faster as he has yet to reach any of the state cut times.

“It’s about getting those times to qualify for those big meets,” Thorsheim said.

Austin will host the True Team Section swimming and diving meet in Ellis Middle School Saturday.

Diving starts at 9:30 a.m. and swimming starts at 2 p.m.