Be it the breaststroke, backstroke, freestyle or butterfly and either the sprints or long distance, Blake Schamma has proven exceptionally versatile for Ozark.
“Blake is strong and fast,” Ozark swim coach Steve Boyce said while looking ahead to the Tigers’ season. “He is our fastest guy and most experienced swimmer. He’s really well-rounded. I can put him in any of the eight individual events and he’s going to be successful.”
It’s no coincidence Schamma can be a contender in such a wide variety of events.
“I’ve been swimming since the third grade for the Springfield Aquatics,” Schamma said. “I’ve always been able to do a lot of events.”
“Usually, kids can do two or three events and maybe four,” Boyce added. “To be able to mix him around all over the place is a big blessing and a big shout out to his work ethic as a younger kid when he learned all four strokes and continued to get better.”
Schamma takes pride in having the experience to go from one extreme to the other.
“Long distance helps your endurance and you have to work on your pace work,” he said. “I’m more used to sprinting. Luckily, though, since I’ve been doing this for so long, I’m able to adjust my stroke.
“I’d say butterfly is the hardest on the body because your body has to go through so much. You’re using so much upper-body strength and ab-strength. With other strokes, you’re not using your entire muscle mass.”
Schamma is fresh from his sophomore season in which he qualified for state in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle. If things go as he hopes, he won’t try for a repeat trip to state in either event.
“My goal is to go to State in the 50 and 100,” Schamma said. “My two strongest (strokes) are probably the butterfly and freestyle. Those are the two I’m most confident in and the two I’m hoping to go to state.
“Preferably, I’d like to do the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle and 100 ‘fly. But I’m willing to do the 200 and 500 freestyle, like I did last year at state.”
“We picked the distance events last year because we thought he had a better chance to score there,” Boyce said. “It depends on how the year progresses where he will end up. What it will come down to is what’s running well for him and what the competition looks like.”
To that end, Schamma hopes his cohorts from Glendale, who practice with the Tigers and are also coached by Boyce, will remain competitors come the post-season.
The Missouri State High Schools Activities Association has yet to release classifications for swimming for the 2018-19 school year. Based on its enrollment, Ozark is on the proverbial bubble of the largest and second largest classes.
“I’d like to stay in the same class as Glendale,” Schamma said. “We’ve grown a strong team bond with them, too. We consider us all teammates, even though we compete for two separate schools.”
Boyce is also looking forward to seeing how Brett Meyer, Trenton Crisp and Caleb Chrestman develop.
“Brett and Trenton got experience late in the season last year as freshmen. That doesn’t happen very often,” Boyce said. “It will be exciting to see them get after it and what they can do in their sophomore seasons. Their second year should be big for them.”
Chrestman tried swimming and playing football last fall, before suffering a broke arm. His focus is solely on swimming this season.
“Caleb was on the verge of having a great year, before he broke his arm,” Boyce said. “What he can do is unknown to us right now. He’s swimming full-time, so that’s exciting.”
Boyce adds he’s far from set on how Ozark’s relay teams will fill out.
“We’re going to have put people together and see what happens,” Boyce said. “We’ll mix and match. We’ll keep mixing and matching until we find the right combos. It’s a good thing I’m a math teacher.”