SYRACUSE — If there is one thing for certain, a good portion of the Wawasee swim team won’t be able to drive the team bus this year.
A team roster that has two-thirds of its members as sophomores or freshmen, Wawasee are green in age, but there are several members that have at least one year of varsity service for the Lady Warriors. And a trio of the sophomores, including sensation Breanna Robinson, have state experience.
Robinson will be the focus of the very young team that has classmates Kendra Miller and Rachel Rozow also in the team photo from a state run last year. Robinson, who swam in the Olympic trials last summer in the backstroke, placed second in the 200 free and third in the 100 free at state as a freshman, and should be a finals contender this year, wherever head coach/mom Julie Robinson places her. Miller and Rozow will also add tremendous speed and distance talent to the core of the team.
“I think losing nine seniors has a huge effect on the team and the girls will definitely go through a rebuilding,” coach Robinson said. “I think the sophomores, even as freshmen last year, are still strong and are training the same way. We have a great freshman class and are ready to move on.”
Wawasee were right in the mix last season in the Northern Lakes Conference and sectional races, but fell to Concord at the NLC and Northridge at the sectional. Also of the fallen are those nine graduates that helped Wawasee break a mind-numbing 59 pool, school, NLC, sectional and state records during the 2011-12 season – home and away – which featured current University of Louisville team member Brittany Robinson, the state record holder in the butterfly at 53.41.
The experience of the returners, which does feature seniors Emma Donahoe and Jen Slabaugh, junior Sam Bontrager as well as sophomores Kira Bailey, Caitlin Clevenger and Hannah Winters, will come in handy. Freshmen Kayla Hershberger, Cassidy Manning, Mikala Mawhorter and Betsy Rozow have already scored points in Wawasee’s first meet against DeKalb on Nov. 10.
Wawasee will have a trio of divers that should be competitive in juniors Amber Mock and Ruby Minnick along with sophomore Tori Sylvester.
“I think those that have the experience, each of the kids are building a team atmosphere,” Robinson said. “When we come into a meet, it seems to add to the things they would like to do in the end. We are taking one meet at a time, trying to build for the NLCs and sectionals. This should be a fun year.”
Wawasee Boys Return Experience
The Warriors are looking to build upon what could be a rebound year after showing well with a fifth-place finish at the Northridge Sectional last February.
The program had no seniors on the roster last winter, so virtually everyone returns this year along with a handful of freshman that could impact right away.
Leading the way for Wawasee are seniors Andrew Busse, Sebastian List and Corey Kenworthy along with juniors Zac Hershberger and Luke Smith along with sophomore Mason Germonprez. List and Hershberger were both All-NLC performers last season and bring a boatload of experience to the pool in a bevy of different areas. Hershberger was one of the top breaststrokers in the sectional and was top-three in the 100 freestyle while Smith quietly emerged as a top 50 free swimmer, nearly winning the sectional last February.
Wawasee may not be the deepest team around, with just 19 swimmers, but may surprise some teams after having a few lean seasons in recent vintage.
“It’s exciting having experience from the kids that progressed so well last year,” said head coach Julie Robinson. “We made a lot of strides a year ago and to have all of them back should make this a very exciting year for us.”
Freshman Logan Brugh leads a half-dozen into the program and will likely impact the team immediately after successful swims at the club level in middle school.
Wawasee also returns a capable group of divers, led by seniors Dylan Dunithan and Brett Smith. Juniors Tristan Grubbs and Nate Hare round out the quartet.
The Warriors open the season Nov. 27 with a visit from Northern Lakes Conference foe Elkhart Memorial.
Young Talent For Tigers
The Warsaw boys and girls programs look to build on last year’s success with some strong returnees for coach Nate Long.
The Warsaw boys, who open the season versus Machester Nov. 20, won their own sectional title last season.
Key returnees expected for WCHS on the boys side include sophomores Spencer Davidson and Jayden Parrett and junior diver Dean Katris. Davidson won sectional titles in both the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke events as a freshman. Parrett won the 100 backstroke sectional championship and Katris took top honors in diving.
The WCHS girls team opened its season Saturday with a third-place finish in the Goshen Relays.
The girls squad was runner-up to Culver Academy in last year’s Warsaw Sectional.
Among the top performers back for the Tigers are senior Jessica Sweatland, juniors Margot Rheinhardt, Ashley VanWormer and Cynthia Juarez and sophomore Jessica Haines.
VanWormer won a sectional title last season in the 100 breaststroke, while Sweatland and Rheinhardt were members of the sectional championship 200 freestyle relay team. Haines and Juarez were both sectional runner-ups.