Shawnee Heights senior swimmer Luke Perkins is a contender, and a good one at it.
Perkins is a four-time state qualifier, one if not the only one in men’s program history to do so. He has won medals in every league, city and state meet.
This year will likely be her last year of competitive swimming, but her impact on the program goes beyond her four years here.
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Luke Perkins has been swimming competitively since a young age
Perkins has been swimming for about 10 years and transitioned from swimming lessons at a young age to competitive swimming at the club level when he was 8 years old.
He has always enjoyed his time on the water, but not all aspects.
“When I started out, I didn’t necessarily have the discipline aspect,” Perkins said. “Making me swim back and forth, but I warmed up.”
Perkins realized he was a good swimmer early in his club swimming days and had older friends on the team who made him eager to swim for his high school team.
“I think high school is more like home, the team aspect,” Perkins said. “It was amazing. High school was the most fun swimming experience I’ve ever had.”
As Perkins got older, he pulled his practice schedule away from club swimming over high school swimming, but the results kept coming.
“I almost took it all off last summer,” Perkins said. “I was working a lot and didn’t want to be burnt out before the high school season hit. I was still in the pool maybe once a week or so.
“I’m a little surprised that my growth continued as it happened, but I’m happy about it. I’m a very competitive person. I always want to improve on whatever I’ve done in the past. I think with that mindset, I think I just made sure that happen”.
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Luke Perkins is swimming up Shawnee Heights
Shawnee Heights coach Riley Propps said the coaching staff knew Perkins would be special from the beginning.
“Basically anything that swam, he was good at,” Propps said. “He was a lot calmer (the early years than him). I’ve definitely seen, from freshman year to now, that his confidence has built up. It’s not just about his timing, but it’s also how he behaves.
“He’s gone from being more of an individual to more of a leader and talking to the other guys about what they can do best. Just talking to the team about where they can improve and take things.”
Perkins’ main events growing up were 200 IMs, 100 flies and 100 backs, but Propps said Perkins’ versatility has allowed him to be more selective when it comes to the postseason and how he wants to approach state.
This year, Shawnee Heights has a smaller swim team and as sophomore captain, Perkins has taken on an even bigger role.
“We gave him more of a role in shaping the practice,” Propps said. “He drew some sets. He comes to all of our swim meets with the coaches. At the meetings, when we meet with the coaches, I take him with me and then he knows that he will pass some of this information on to the team.
“I’m just giving him some of that responsibility to hold his teammates accountable, so to speak. Overall, just including him in more decisions and kind of helping him build the culture.”
As a freshman, Perkins was the lone state qualifier and placed seventh in the 100 fly and 100 back.
As a sophomore, a few more people qualified and Perkins finished third in the 100 fly.
Last year, the men’s team finished eighth in state, the best finish of any Topeka-area men’s team. Perkins finished second in the 100m fly and sixth in the 200m IM while being part of the 200m medley relay that finished fifth and the 200m free relay that finished sixth.
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Propps said he’s not sure Perkins realizes the impact he’s had on the program.
“Because for him, that’s just what he does,” Propps said. “He really fundamentally changed people’s view of swimming in Shawnee Heights.”
Propps added that he is happy Perkins was able to see his impact at the end of the year with more swimmers competing in the state than when Perkins was a freshman.
“When we started it was just him,” said Propps. “He Now he has friends, people he can mentor, and he has a legacy he can leave behind.
“My big thing goes to the state. I want him to have as much fun as possible.”
Preparation for the state
As of Feb. 6, Perkins holds the third fastest qualifying time in 5-1A in the 100 fly (52.63), sixth fastest qualifying time in the 200 IM (2:01.12), and sixth fastest qualifying time in the 100 back (56, 01).
He is also part of the 200m medley relay which has the fifth fastest qualifying time in 5-1A at 1:41.44 as well as the 200m free relay which has the fifth fastest qualifying time at 1:33.71.
At last Tuesday’s championship meet, the men’s team finished third overall and Perkins won the 200 IM and 100 fly, as well as making the top 200 medley relay and 200 free relay.
“As a senior year, I knew it was going to be fun with the team as close as it is,” Perkins said. “For Shawnee Heights to place first in the relays is unprecedented in swimming. We keep getting better. It’s fantastic.”
This year, Propps said Perkins has been great starting strong off the block and they are focusing on the breast stroke and transitions with the state bout fast approaching.
Please choose a different route
Despite success in the pool and the opportunity to swim to the next level, Perkins will focus on his academics.
Options, cost, time and energy were all factored into her decision. Perkins said he’s a little exhausted.
Perkins intends to major in mechanical engineering. Mathematics has always been a strong subject for him and he has an interest in cars after modifying and working on his first car with his friends.
“That could obviously change, but I’m really into alternative energy right now, transportation and automobiles,” Perkins said.
The thought of not swimming was always in his head. Growing up, she found other passions.
After finishing second in the 100 fly last year, he said he’s thinking about winning it this year, but he won’t be upset if it doesn’t happen.
“I enjoy competing and all the guys I compete with. I won’t be mad if I lose to them,” said Perkins. “They’re all very respectable competitors and they train year round. Crazy schedules. It’s all respect.”
Perkins’ time with the program is something he’ll look back on fondly.
“I’ve created a lot of great memories,” Perkins said. “There is a special place for this team. Even if I leave next year, I hope they can continue the Shawnee Heights swimming legacy.
“I hope they can continue the growth I helped start.”
Suggestions or ideas for stories? Email Seth Kinker at [email protected] or DM him on Twitter @SethKinker.