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Rampart's Clarke putting it together heading toward state swim meet
Rampart's Ian Clarke remembers a time, not long ago, when swimming merely took the place of a chore, something to do to make his parents happy with no other purpose.
“I’ve been swimming since the first grade, and I hated swimming until my sophomore year,” said Clarke, a senior and two-time 5A state qualifier. “My parents would just drag me to swimming, and I felt like I was forced to swim.”
Then, something remarkable happened. Perhaps it was watching his two older sisters, Kelsey and Kyrene, set relay records for the Rams and eventually earn college scholarships to UNLV and Denver, respectively. Or maybe Clarke saw that he was talented enough to succeed at the high school level after years of club swimming with not much to show for it, far from being the fastest swimmer.
This weekend, Clarke holds the top seed in the 500-yard freestyle and 200 individual medley at the 38th Hornet Invite at the Pueblo County High School natatorium. It’s a far cry from his prior performance and attitude, and the results haven’t gone unnoticed.
“As a freshman, he was really crazy and squirrely, and acted like a freshman,” fifth-year Rams coach Dan Greene said. “Ian has grown up a lot in a few years. He’s become quite a leader. When he’s around the other kids now, they step it up. It didn’t used to be that way.”
His sophomore year showed just a glimpse of his potential. He qualified for the 500 free and 200 IM, in addition to swimming the third leg on the 200 medley and 400 free relay teams. However, he failed to reach the finals, instead swimming in the consolation final in both events.
Last year, Clarke improved enough to reach the final of the 500 free, where he finished sixth. He missed qualifying for the 200 IM final by just one place, placing ninth overall in the preliminary round.
For one last time, he hopes to end with a bang after starting with quite the whimper.
“I can’t wait for state,” Clarke said. “Sure, I want to make the finals in both. It’s just hard to think that next year, I’ll be doing this in college at Utah. My senior year is going way too fast. It feels like the swimming season just started, and it’s almost already over. After all those years, I started enjoying swimming and actually wanted to do it.”
Clarke, who hasn’t lost a head-to-head match in the dual season, ranks first in the Pikes Peak region and ninth overall in the 500 free in 5A with a time of 4 minutes, 52.22 seconds and has the sixth-fastest 200 IM at 1:57.79. Only Lewis-Palmer’s Ryan Arata (1:57.69) has completed the race in a faster time among El Paso County athletes.
Greene only wonders what might have happened had Clarke found his motivation a little earlier.
“I’d love to have him longer, but we’ve got to let him go,” Greene said. “It’s amazing how he suddenly clicked. He got fast all of the sudden. He went from playing in the water to training in the water. I’m really excited to see what he’ll do at state, and I’m sure he’ll be a finalist in both events. I’d love him to finish his career with a great end of the season.”