By RICK PETERSON
John-Martin Schmidt carved out one of the top high school careers in city history as a Hayden swimmer, capturing seven state championships and setting multiple Class 5A-1A state records.
Now the 24-year-old Schmidt’s focus is on passing along his expertise in the sport to the current Wildcat swimmers.
After graduating from Hayden, the former state meet swimmer of the year went on to swim three collegiate seasons for Missouri S&T before transferring to Washburn to complete work on his degree.
It was after Schmidt returned to Topeka that he caught the coaching bug.
“When I moved back here to go to Washburn I changed majors to get more into the sports medicine world, so that kind of re-opened my interest to be around the sport more and coaching was the way to do that,’’ Schmidt said. “Then everything just kind of fell into place great.’’
Schmidt, who was a multiple-event placer for the Miners in the Great Lakes Valley Conference championships, served as an assistant for Howard Hunte at Hayden a year ago before taking over as the Wildcats’ head coach this season when Hunte took over as the Topeka Swim Association coach.
“It worked out that I was able to approach Bobby (Taul, Hayden athletic director) and step up and come into the job,’’ Schmidt said.
Schmidt has the luxury of working with one of the city’s most experienced coaches -- his mother Laura.
Laura Schmidt was John-Martin’s head coach throughout his high school career and was also on the Hayden staff last season.
“Last year I was the assistant coach and she was the interim assistant coach,’’ Schmidt said. “When I couldn’t be there she was there, and this year she’s helping me out.’’
Not surprisingly, John-Martin said he and Laura make a good team.
“It works out really well,’’ he said. “The way we've kind of been doing it this year is she helps teach the newer kids and all the techniques for every stroke and I can take the more advanced kids and put them through actual workouts instead of having to divvy up my time.’’
Schmidt has already notched a career highlight in his first season as a head coach, with the Wildcats giving him his first team championship in the Osawatomie Invitational.
“It’s really nice being able to have everybody share in that success,’’ Schmidt said.
Obviously there’s still work to be done, with the year’s biggest meets coming up later in the season, but Schmidt feels like his transition from an assistant coach to head coach has been a smooth one.
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “Pretty much the whole team was returning. I think we only have five or six new kids this year and it’s definitely easier when all the kids already know you.
“It’s been awesome. I really enjoy coaching. I loved doing it last year, just being the assistant coach, and the head coach part takes it to a new level. I grew up loving the sport and putting my time into it, so it’s nice that I can keep doing that.’’