During his freshman season, Josh Fluetsch swam with a broken ankle at the Sac-Joaquin Section Meet. He fractured his right ankle a week before the meet at a lake.
He was told he couldn’t make the ankle worse by swimming, so he decided to compete through the pain.
Fluetsch had a much tougher time trying to push through the emotional pain of losing his best friend, Brandon Villegas, who committed suicide the day before the Central California Conference trials this season.
Fluetsch went on to win CCC titles in the 100- and 500-yard freestyle events. The Merced High School senior finished fourth at sections in the 500, but his heart wasn’t in it.
“Going through that physical pain my freshman year with the broken ankle doesn’t compare with the emotional pain,” Fluetsch said. “No matter what I did, I couldn’t get myself to push through.”
Fluetsch still managed to set a personal best in the 100 at sections with a time of 47.35 seconds in the trials.
Merced teammate Jande Monteon saw her times drop dramatically in the 100 and 200 freestyle events. The fellow senior won two CCC titles and earned a scholarship to Cal State East Bay along the way.
Fluetsch and Monteon are the Sun-Star Swimmers of the Year.
“Like Josh, Jande really committed herself to extra training and extra conditioning,” Merced coach Kit Grattan said. “She really had high expectations for herself, and I was a little worried she wouldn’t achieve her goals, but she surpassed them.”
Monteon began crossfit training in January and fell in love with it. That, combined with regular trips to the gym to work on cardio and weights, really helped her in the pool.
“It was my senior year, and I wanted to get into a good college,” Monteon said. “I knew I had to take care of business. I had watched crossfit training on TV, and it looked fun to me. It was something I enjoyed doing.”
Monteon felt she slumped last year, as she put too much pressure on herself. Finally, during a meet in Roseville, Monteon posted a sub 2-minute time in the 200 freestyle preliminaries. The next day in the finals, she trimmed another two seconds off her time.
“I always felt she could do it,” Grattan said. “I think a lot of times kids inhibit themselves with the pressure they put on themselves. She kept working toward it and once she got it, it was like the floodgates opened.”
Monteon set personal best in the 200 (1:56.33) and 100 (53.58) at sections this season.
For Monteon, it was also tough pushing through after the death of Villegas.
“When it happened, a lot of us weren’t mentally there for the CCC meet,” she said. “I remember Kit talking to all of us and telling us he didn’t care if we didn’t swim our best, as long as we swam for Brandon. Some of us did do well, but it was still tough for us.”
Fluetsch came into the season with goals for himself. The biggest was lowering his time in the 500 to 4:32.
Fluetsch felt he was on track to make a run at 4:32 until Villegas’ death. Fluetsch won the 500 at the CCC meet with a time of 5:06.89, 24 seconds off the record time of 4:42.36 he set the year before during the CCC meet.
Fluetsch improved to 4:41.52 at sections, which was good for fourth place. He was given the opportunity to compete at the state meet but declined.
Fluetsch will continue his swimming career at California Baptist Unversity.
“I’m very excited for that,” he said. “In college, I think I’ll hit a new level. Not just with racing and times, but being a better athlete because of the competition. I’m going to have to get better mentally and physically.”
Shawn Jansen: (209) 385-2462
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