INDIANAPOLIS —There wasn’t a whole lot of local representation at the IHSAA Girls Swimming State Finals, but what was offered made quite an impression.
Wawasee sophomore Breanna Robinson, the top seed in the state in both the 100 and 200 freestyles heading into the weekend, left the IUPUI Natatorium Saturday having laid claim to third place in both events and broke a pair of school records in the process. Northridge senior Brittany Walters shocked everyone but herself in claiming a state championship in the 500 freestyle.
Robinson’s first swim of the day – the 200 – saw the speedy sophomore pitted to the right of Carmel’s Claire Adams while Walters, who qualified fourth in the 200 Friday night, was in lane six. Robinson managed to piece together a slight lead through three laps and even had a tiny lead heading to the final turn. As Adams and Westfield’s Summer Brown made clean turns, Robinson’s turn had her come out too quickly, allowing the two to her immediate left take advantage.
As the nearly six-foot-tall Carmel freshman sped to the wall, Brown rode her hip but the length was too much as Adams took the prize at 1:49.25 to the 1:49.30 of Brown. Robinson, not far off, touched at 1:49.71 with Walters just behind for fourth at 1:49.97.
“I wanted to win really bad, but, you know, I did break 1:50 so I have to be happy with that,” Breanna said. “It is always a little bit annoying (losing to freshman) but the truth is they are still competition, it doesn’t matter what grade they are.”
Robinson’s favorite race, the 100 free, had a similar set of circumstances unfold. Leading for a portion of the race, Robinson hit the final wall with purpose but lost ground as a pair of competitors took the reigns. The final 25 yards had Carmel’s other fantastic freshman, Veronica Burchill, take the lead to clock 50.29 with Mount Vernon’s Clara Baggett in tow at 50.46 and Robinson taking third at 50.67.
Both of Saturday’s times for Robinson are Wawasee school records. The 1:49.71 eclipsed the 1:50.07 Robinson posted in Friday night’s prelims while the 100 swim Saturday broke her 50.74 set last year at the state finals.
“I’m so proud of her, she came out here and she raced as fast as she could,” said Wawasee head coach and proud mom Julie Robinson. “When you get that excitement and you come in here seeded first, the pressure that is on you is just unimaginable. She has had to deal with that all week. And she did. You could see in both of her races where she got a little bit tight at the finish.
“That’s just more experience. She is young and she had a great weekend.”
As Breanna shuffled around the deck after the 100, doing press, cool down laps in the practice side of the pool and taking a few moments to collect her thoughts, Walters made Northridge history just on the other side of the bulkhead.
Walters, who barely qualified for the finals in the 500 by a half second at 4:59.53, made the most of her opportunity. Swimming in lane eight and away from the attention, Walters dug down very deep and put together one of the more memorable swims the 500 has seen in a while.
Walters fired off the blocks and never let up, posting not only a school-record 4:53.49, but obliterating her lifetime-best from the night before and beating runner-up Emily Moser of Fishers, who was in lane four and completely unaware of what Walters did. Moser finished at 4:54.39.
“It was dedication, I wanted it so bad today,” said a jubilant Walters following her race. “I just went after it and took it. I knew since I was in lane eight I wasn’t going to be see anyone else. So I had to just to get off to a good start and set up my race. I could see about half the pack, and I did peek a little at the end but for the most part I couldn’t see everyone else.
“As a freshman, I never thought I could be one of the best swimmers at Northridge, but I don’t know, its been really awesome and today just adds to that. My coaches have been amazing. I just had a lot of motivation from my teammates, too.”
That effort, which paired with the school record Walters posted in the 200, was the icing on the cake for Northridge head coach Joe Keller, who did his best Nate Duell impression on the final 10 yards of the race to being reduced to tears talking about his senior.
“This is what happens when you take on a lot of hard work and add a little bit of talent. There have been really talented kids who aren’t willing to work,” said Keller, who then needed roughly 90 seconds to recompose himself as the tears began to fall. “One thing is for sure. This is what happens when you have someone who cares. Who has the passion and the drive. It’s really what we want to promote about athletics and kids. It’s bigger than just winning one race. It’s the sum of improving. Brittney really showed all of that.
“I don’t know if I have ever been as satisfied and proud of a swimmer as I am today. We have been part of titles, but this is just, oh man, this is awesome.”
Northridge had a pair of other finals events in motion, with Walters leaving the championship podium to rush to lane one to anchor the 200 free relay consolation team. Northridge would finish 16th overall while diving teammate Jenna Denlinger survived morning qualifying to place 16th on the board.
Other area swimmers of note from the finals included Penn’s Bethany Galat winning titles in both the individual medley and breaststroke, Bremen’s Katie Lafferty taking 12th in the 100, and NorthWood senior diver Melissa Berger taking 29th overall during the morning prelims.
Carmel surprised absolutely no one with its dominance for the 27th straight year. Winning seven event titles, including setting state records in the medley relay (1:41.17), the 400 free relay (3:23.37) and Adams breaking the backstroke mark with a 53.40, the Greyhounds piled up 397 team points to Penn’s mortal 189 runner-up score. Northridge finished with 38 and Wawasee 32 to place 16th and 21st, respectively.
Carmel is now tied with Pickford (MI) High School’s boys track program with the 27 consecutive titles, which Pickford set from 1952-78. Honolulu Punahou’s 29 straight boys swimming championships from 1958-86 are tops on the charts. Carmel’s incredible run, with names like Burchill, Adams, Hannah House and Alex Clarke all underclassmen, hold the nation’s current active record.