Returning to the pool his senior season, Seymour’s Jake Vance knew that he could compete with the best in the state.

It was just a matter of performing at his best in crunch time.

After stepping away from the sport his junior year, Vance came back to the Owls’ swimming team with a newfound focus and drive for the 2016-17 season.

Now, with a full season of swims under his belt, just one task remains for Vance — the bright lights and big crowd in Indianapolis at State.

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Tonight, Vance will take to IU Natatorium at IUPUI in the fastest high school sprint of the season: the 50-yard freestyle.

“I have a lot of determination,” Vance said. “I had the goal of making it to state in one of my sports. I looked at the times from state from my junior year, and I thought I could give it a good shot.”

At the Floyd Central sectional this past weekend, Vance won the 50 free in 22.31 seconds.

“I prepared mentally for the race,” Vance said of sectional. “I knew I had the power and strength. I just needed the mental mindset.”

Going into the state preliminary tonight, which begins at 6 p.m., Vance sits as the No. 34 seed of 35 on the heat sheet.

The No. 1 seed in the event, Carmel’s Andrew Couchon, comes in with a time of 20.49.

All of the little things will make the difference in the race.

“In the 50, there’s no room for error,” Owls coach Dave Boggs said.”It’s a splash and dash — a start, turn and finish. You have to be flawless. It will come down to tenths of a second. We’re hoping to drop time, as always, and see what we can do.”

Vance said his goal is to swim a 21.7 or faster tonight.

Boggs said that Vance grew a lot during the season, and became one of the team’s leaders by example.

“He was respected so much by his teammates, and his presentation he gave to the team, that he was chosen as a captain,” Boggs said. “We don’t have whoever is coming back as captain. He has been a good leader, who has led by example in the pool, dryland and the weight room.”

The top-16 in each swimming event during the prelims will return for competition on Saturday with the top eight individuals vying for state championship honors.

“We talk about enjoying the moment,” Boggs said. “Embracing it and having fun. I used to go the other way, and realized that with my athletes — they’re really smart. Sometimes they will overthink and over analyze, and shoot themselves in the foot. Now, we keep it simple.”

Those finishing nine through 16 on Friday will make up the competitors in the consolation heats.

Saturday competition begins at 1 p.m.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there supporting me,” Vance said. “My family and coaches do a great job. I just want to soak in the moment.”

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Jordan Morey is sports editor at The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at jmorey@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.