News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 2, 2013

North student to compete at Paralympics Nationals

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A Wabash Valley family hopes to make a splash at the U.S. Paralympics Spring Swimming Nationals event this week.

Sam McCarter, a freshman at Terre Haute North Vigo High School, is scheduled to compete in the breaststroke events starting Thursday at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center, in hopes of qualifying for Olympic competition.

With prosthetic femur and hip joint, he has been qualified as a disabled swimmer, and he has met the time requirements to compete this week.

He normally swims the 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke, but McCarter is challenged to swim the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke events at the nationals.

“I have a modified kick,” he explained by phone on Monday as he and his mother, Mary, were on the road to Minnesota. “My right leg works for the breaststroke, but my left leg does a modified dolphin kick.”

Sam was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, in September 2004 at age 7. He was treated by oncologist Dr. James Hill and fitted for his prosthetic femur by Dr. Daniel Wurtz, who focuses on limb-saving research for children with cancer.

He started swimming as therapy, taking private lessons at a pool in Paris, Ill. He did so well at swimming, his mother said, that his instructor encouraged her to sign Sam up for the Tiger Barbs swim team. He later joined the South Vermillion Summer Swim Club, because the family lives in Clinton, and he swam for the middle school team.

Though Sam, his mother, and younger brother, Henry, still live in Clinton, both boys now attend school in Terre Haute, and Sam is a member of the North Vigo Patriots swim team.

Even though swim season is over, Sam has been training for the last month in the THN pool, swimming 5,000 to 6,000 meters per workout. In preparation for this week’s competition, he has scaled his workouts down to 3,000 meters.

“They’ve been really gracious about making sure he gets in the pool six days a week,” his mother said of North.

“I’m thankful for my team for pushing me through the swim season,” Sam said.

Because of his disability, Sam cannot compete in other sports, though before his cancer diagnosis he was active in soccer, baseball and other team activities that attract young children.

He has had numerous surgeries, and as he has grown, the prosthetic implant has been adjusted to grow with him. Sam still has a growth platelet above his knee, but he also received a new hip socket in 2011.

“We’re trying not to do any more surgeries for a while,” Mary said, noting that Sam was out of swimming for 10 months after the hip surgery.

But he still visits Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for checkups. He was one of the first children to receive the prosthetic bone that Wurtz helped develop.

The national competition is important to the McCarters because it will help determine who gets to go in August to the world competition in Toronto. Sam also plans to compete in Cincinnati next month.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.