As he got set to enter the pool for the 50-yard backstroke final, Liam Price looked over at his lone adversary. Wyoming representative Jesse Jaite had posted the top time during the preliminaries (34.65 seconds), but Price wasn’t at all intimidated.

“I looked at him,” the 2020 Center Grove graduate said, “and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I can beat him.’”

With a gold medal on the line, Price did exactly that. Having finished less than half a second behind Jaite in the prelims, he summoned the energy to surge past him in the final — 34.05 seconds to Jaite’s 34.89 — and earn a spot atop the podium at the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Orlando, Florida.

Price also won a silver medal in the 25-yard backstroke and teamed with Dagan Everman, Sam Fawley and Whiteland native Josh Reinking to claim silver for Team Indiana in the 200-yard medley relay. Reinking also placed fifth as an individual in the 50 freestyle and ninth in the 100 free.

Busy during the winter seasons as a manager for the Center Grove boys basketball team, Price never swam competitively for the Trojans during his high school years; he made his competitive debut in the water representing Johnson County at the Indiana Special Olympics 2018 State Games. He won the 25 backstroke a year later and got hooked.

“I felt like I was good at it,” Price said. “I was getting better at it over time, and I was like, ‘Yep, that’s my sport.’”

At the 2021 State Games, Price won both the 25 and 50 back and helped the county to victory in the mixed 100-yard freestyle relay.

By then, he had a year of collegiate swimming under his belt. Spurred on by a chance meeting at Qdoba in Greenwood, Price was encouraged to join the team at the University of Indianapolis by then-coach Jason Hite, who had already been a Special Olympics volunteer for more than a decade.

Hite was working with Marion County swimmers at the time; he now coaches Price twice a week at Center Grove, where Hite’s two youngest sons, Harrison and Max, swim for the high school team and Center Grove Aquatic Club. His oldest son, Ethan Hite, is now one of Price’s teammates at UIndy.

After finding out that Price qualified for the national games, the entire Hite family was determined to be there.

“My wife (Heidi) has kind of been the cheerleader,” Jason Hite said. “She looked at us and said, ‘We’re going. Let’s go.’ … So we jumped in the car and drove the 14 hours, and absolutely loved the experience.”

Price’s parents, Jon and Cindy, were also in attendance — Jon as a coach for the Team Indiana men. Liam also had support from Florida residents Mitch and Annika Dworet; their son Nick had signed a letter of intent to swim at UIndy just days before being killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

UIndy hosted a Swim4Nick memorial meet this past season.

On the first day of competition in Orlando, Liam Price told his parents that he felt Dworek in his heart and knew he was with him in the water.

He also knew going in that his chances of winning gold were pretty strong; Jon Price had done some research.

“He was looking at statistics from the 2018 summer games,” Liam said of his father, “and he was like, ‘Yeah, you look like you’re about five seconds ahead of the guy who won it that year in the 50.’”

As it turned out, Price didn’t have anywhere near a five-second cushion— the competition, especially Jaite, was much stiffer this time around. But he was still fast enough to get the job done in that two-man final.

“(Jaite) pretty much went all out in his prelim, and in his final he fizzled out a little bit,” Price said. “Finals are more important than prelims.”

Having achieved national success for the first time, Price is not only already thinking ahead to the 2026 USA Games but also to 2030. He points out that there have been three-time competitors in the past and he feels he can potentially do the same.

He’s played numerous different sports through Special Olympics Johnson County, but by now, Price has a clear favorite.

“I found out what I’m really good at.”