Kiernan Schumacher was just happy—even surprised—to make the state swim meet a year ago as a sophomore.

However, in his junior season at Br. Rice, Schumacher has switched his focus in hopes of improving his state performance. He’s intensely focused on improving his skills in the little things that could save him precious tenths of a second in a race.

“This year, I’ve really been trying to work on more technical aspects,” Schumacher said. “At the Sandburg invite, I tried a different technique for the end of my races. I dropped a lot of time. I’ll stick with that, and hopefully when I’m all tapered, that will get me even further.”

Schumacher (Morgan Park, St. Cajetan) won the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events for the Crusaders on Jan. 21 in a Metro Catholic Aquatic Conference (MCAC) dual meet with St. Rita, which squeaked out an 87-81 team victory.

Last season, Schumacher advanced to state in both the 50 and 100 free. He hopes the experience, and less butterflies, will help in the upcoming postseason meets.

Br. Rice will compete at the MCAC meet on Feb. 8 and at the Sandburg sectional on Feb. 22. Evanston High School will host the state meet Feb. 28-29.

“Going in and not knowing the state meet, you’re not sure how to process it all,” Schumacher said. “You’re sitting there thinking ‘Oh, wow, this is happening.’ I’m hoping that this not being my first time will help.”

The freestyle sprinter said he likes where his times are as he attempts to qualify for state.

“I’d like to think I’m about where I should be time-wise,” Schumacher said. “At the big midseason meet at Evanston, I did really well. Sandburg too, I dropped time. I’m on a pretty good track. By the time the taper training kicks in and I get suited up, I’ll be set for those bigger meets.”

Senior Seth Miller was also a two-time winner at the dual, winning the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke.

As a junior, Miller finished fourth in state in the butterfly.

It’s been a busy winter for Miller (Evergreen Park) who starred for the Chicago Wolfpack Aquatic Club at the Junior Olympic Championships in Seattle in December and has also committed to the University of Iowa swim team.

“The meet was a great experience. Time management was the biggest thing, just a constant schedule every day,” Miller said. “You get to know a lot of people on the West Coast and people from all over.”

With a state championship in the butterfly his main goal, Miller is focused on the state meet. However, he’s not feeling the pressure—he’s looking forward to it.

“I know a lot of what it will come down to,” Miller said. “I’ve been in those pressure situations. I know when I especially need to be mentally prepared going into the sectional and state meet.”

Other dual winners for the Crusaders included the 200-yard medley relay team (Miller, Owen Greybill, Schumacher and Dylan Early), Greybill in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke, and the 400-yard freestyle relay team (Early, Schumacher, Greybill and Miller).

For St. Rita, winners included Homer Olivares in the 200-yard freestyle, Saul Ventura in the 500-yard freestyle, and the 200-yard freestyle relay team (Sebastian Chaidez, John Piggott, Mauricio Binfa-Reyes and Ventura).

The Crusaders’ performance has impressed Miller.

“The big thing with this group is the work ethic,” Miller said. “These guys put in the work. You definitely see them getting better in practice.”