The high school junior arrived in Lake Forest in July from Canada looking for a place to train. He landed at the Lake Forest Swim Club, where Scout coach Cindy Dell mentors the athletes. A few months later, he was chanting her mantra.
“I’m building toward Saturday at the state meet,” Balteanu said Tuesday during practice, referring to a Feb. 25 date in Evanston for the state finals. “Every little thing I do in the pool will drop my time for that.”
Seeing his times improve through the season is what sets swimming apart from other sports for Balteanu. He flirted briefly with tennis and eschews team sports for competition stressing individual effort.
“I like seeing the drop in times, seeing improvement,” he said.
Dell has been preaching the philosophy of preparing for the season’s final day of competition for years. She has helped Balteanu buy into it along with a place on the team, adding depth to a squad she believes can crack the top 10 in state team standings this year.
Balteanu already knows about tapering for a special event. He learned that in Canada’s junior nationals when stitches on a calf injury prevented him from properly preparing for the meet even though he had a top 15 finish.
“I could have done better, but I couldn’t taper,” Balteanu said of the injury.
He learned how to swim at age 4 in his native Romania and became a competitive club swimmer at 6. When his family moved to Toronto a year later, he moved easily into Canadian competition. His ease of adjustment since coming to the United States has been the same.
“It’s not been too much of a transition,” Balteanu said of the move from Canada.
He notices the contrasts outside the pool. Balteanu said the Canadian education system has more requirements the first year in high school, as well as the downplay of interscholastic sports.
“We’re giving him something he hasn’t had before,” Dell said, referring to a school team atmosphere. “He has added more depth to our team. We haven’t had a breaststroker like that” in years.
Balteanu swims the breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley for Lake Forest as well as adding a championship dimension to the 200 medley relay team. The quartet of Balteanu, Peter Grumhaus, Bryan Bunning and Colin Rowe already has bettered the state qualifying standard in the race.
As an individual, Balteanu is close to the state standard in both the 100 breaststroke and IM. At last month's Lake County meet, Balteanu tied for third in the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.13.
Balteanu’s adjustment to his new country has been swift and complete in other ways as well. He hopes swimming will be part of his future.
“I want to go as far as it (swimming) takes me,” Balteanu said. “I want to use it to get into a good college.”