Madison’s Justin Banks is the Boys Swimmer Player of the Year. (Photo by Nina Campbell Photography)
Madison’s Justin Banks is the Boys Swimmer Player of the Year. (Photo by Nina Campbell Photography)
Years of development paid off this year in a big way for Madison’s swim program which saw its boys team have swimmers compete in every sectional final but diving and place second overall as a team, its highest finish in school history.

That performance was all the more impressive considering that the vast majority of points scored by the team were by freshmen and sophomores, a revolution of youth that promises to lead the Cubs to heights they have never before experienced.

“We knew the last couple of years that we had something special in the pipeline, that the next five years were going to be very competitive for Madison swimming, both for the boys and the girls,” Madison coach Ashley Schutte said. “The boys in particular are going to have a lot of success. We’re looking for a sectional win next year.”

Leading that charge is one of the youngest swimmers on the team. But what freshman Justin Banks lacks in experience, he more than makes up with talent and a drive that is off the charts.

Banks earns the nod as this year’s Madison Courier Boys Swimmer of the Year but really, the award could have gone to any number of the talented group of swimmers who swam for Madison this season.

But Banks stands out, not just because of the way he glides through the water, but the work that he is willing to put in to get faster every day.

“The work ethic he brings is off the charts. He never misses and if he does then you know something is drastically wrong,” Schutte said. “He is here and he gives 110%every day. He has the workouts memorized and most of the time he’ll tell me what we’re doing because he’s looked ahead a few days. He eats, sleeps and breathes swimming and I think that’s great for our program and that’s great for his teammates. It’s easy to look at this like it’s an individual sport, but if you’re succeeding as an individual, your team is excelling and he gets that.”

Banks’ freshman year could hardly have been better. He dominated the 100-yard breaststroke all season and helped anchor the Cubs’ top relays. He led the team in points scored at the sectional, picking up a third in the breast in 1:01.77 and a fifth in the 200 individual medley in 2:02.97. He was also a member of the 200 medley relay team that placed second in 1:43.16 and the 200 freestyle relay that was third in 1:33.94.

Banks’ — or the team’s — success wasn’t all that surprising. The Madison-based Hoosier Hills Otters Swim Club has been racking up awards over the past few seasons and that youth club is beginning to pay dividends.

Banks is a member of the Otters and even though he and his teammates are young, they have been competing together for years.

“We kind of knew that we would go into the season strong because everybody knows each other — we’ve known each other all of our lives really — and we’ve just been pushing each other and ourselves all throughout the season,” Banks said.

Although Banks has known his teammates for years, they weren’t his classmates until this season. Homeschooled for his first eight years, Banks enrolled at Madison Consolidated High School this year for the first time.

Schutte said that just the act of coming to Madison showed what kind of personality Banks possesses.

“That was a big commitment and a big change for him,” Schutte said. “His courage to take a leap like that and his family’s courage to let him take that journey into public schools and athletics is special.”

Banks said he loves the team aspect of swimming but admits what draws him to the sport is his ability be in control of his own success.

“It’s really fun for me because no matter what happens, I’m controlling myself in the water,” Banks said. “I’m always pushing myself and you’re not having to depend on teammates like in basketball or football. It’s a ‘you’ sport and with what you do, you’re trying to help your team get better.”

Banks is already looking forward to next season. While the Otters’ season is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he has high expectations for when the high school season resumes in November.

“My expectations are to get up on the record board and to push my teammates even more to get all of the records,” Banks said with a smile. “I feel like we can push ourselves harder on the offseason and during the season. Come to practice and practice even harder than we usually do.”

Schutte, for one, knows that the sky is the limit for Banks and his talented teammates.

“There is absolutely much more in the tank. I look for him to grow, I look for him to get stronger. He has bought into the whole philosophy of the weight room, he’s a clean eater. It is just a matter of him maturing,” Schutte said. “Indiana is one of most competitive states when it comes to swimming and he’s always just right there. I think what’s going to drive him to that next level is that he doesn’t like to lose. I think he’s 23-1 on the season and what he focuses on is that one. What can I do differently? What can I do better? And honestly, it was a perfect race that day. He’s just going to out-work everybody and that’s what I expect of him next season and that’s going to trickle down to the younger ones and his teammates as well.”