INDIANAPOLIS – All the posturing is over, for the most part. The weekend is here, and with it brings the IHSAA Girls Swimming State Championships. Several new faces will descend upon Indianapolis and the Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI with over three-dozen freshmen scheduled to race, but the veteran stars will likely shine in what could be another record-setting weekend of swimming.
There will be more than just a few warm bodies representing the area at state. Led by Wawasee junior Bre Robinson and over a half-dozen of her closest friends in green and gold, the stage will be available once again to showcase her immense talents.
The ‘Little Engine That Can’ has continued her assault on local records, but has yet to grab the big prize. After a bittersweet sophomore campaign that had Robinson enter state weekend with the state’s top seed in the 100 and 200 freestyles only to finish third in both, Robinson still broke school records in both events in the process. A junior campaign had Robinson break four more school records including meet, pool and school records in the 54.65 backstroke effort at sectional. For Robinson, numbers were nice, but the team goal of a sectional championship, the first since 1999, was more satisfying.
“It’s a great feeling,” Robinson said following the sectional. “I’m very proud of my girls. I was really nervous coming in, but, we all showed everyone here that we wanted it.”
Robinson’s backstroke effort at the Concord Sectional lands her in the top seed position once again heading into the weekend in Indianapolis. But with Robinson at the top of the heat sheet is Carmel sophomore sensation Claire Adams, to whom Robinson is familiar from both club swimming and last year’s state finals. Adams rallied to catch Robinson in the 200-yard freestyle in a bang-bang finish a year ago, and later finished with the state record in the backstroke at 53.40.
Robinson is also the three-seed in the butterfly (54.60), a hair slower than top-seed Aly Tetzloff of Crown Point (54.26). The event record is held by Bre’s older sister, Brittany, who was the state champion for Wawasee in 2012 with her 53.41.
“We really looked at everything this year and did what was best for Bre,” stated Wawasee head coach and proud mom Julie Robinson. “We thought Bre had the best chance to succeed in the back and breast, and it shows a little more versatility for colleges in her junior year. It’s been a fun year for her, and I think this weekend will be a good one, too.”
Wawasee freshman Paige Miller is also qualified in two events, the individual medley and 500 after winning titles in both at Concord. Miller set the school record in the 500 (5:00.24) and broke the meet and pool records in the IM (2:06.36). Miller and her older sister, Kendra, along with Shelby Adams and Mikala Mawhorter will swim the 200 free relay and the Miller sisters, Robinson and Kayla Hershberger are slated to swim the 400 free relay.
“This really was a team effort this year, and just a great group of girls,” coach Robinson stated. “Our girls don’t want to just go down to state, they want to swim the second day. We have had a lot of fun, but they are very goal oriented. We wanted to win conference and sectionals in 2014, and we still have a little left to do with some goals at state.”
Warsaw, after winning a heartstopping Warsaw Sectional by seven points over Culver Academy, will send a fair amount of representation to the state finals.
“I have ten girls going down to state this year. That is fantastic for this team and the program as a whole,” started Warsaw head coach Nate Long. “When sectionals were done, we lifted that trophy and I said, ‘It doesn’t say “boys” on it, does it?’ At the beginning of the season, the goal is always to win a sectional. But to give an honest answer, I didn’t think we would have enough depth to get it done. This really is going to help us going into state weekend.”
One of the major focuses for Warsaw will be the efforts of freshman phenom Brenna Morgan, who matched victories at the Northern Lakes Conference tournaments in the 50 and 100 freestyles with titles at the Warsaw Sectional. Her 24.24 in the 50 set a sectional record and is the current school record, one in which Morgan has been lowering for much of the season.
The freshman will have some work to do to catch the top seed Amy Bilquist of Carmel and her 22.80, but in an event that doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, Long feels anything can happen.
“The 50 really is about adrenaline,” Long said. “You can shave off a half-second in the 50 no problem. It’s a combo of things, and we held her taper back a little for this week. I don’t know if she can shave off two seconds, but anything can happen down there.”
Morgan is in a large jumble of swimmers in the middle of the pack in the 100 at 52.91 where Bilquist is again the top seed at 50.18.
Warsaw’s medley relay, which includes Morgan, Megan Bixler, Ashley Van Wormer and Erin Sandberg, join NLC mates Concord and Goshen all in the first heat Friday night. Warsaw’s seed time of 1:56.15, is 13 seconds behind the lead time from Crown Point. Morgan, Sandberg, Van Wormer and Cynthia Juarez comprised the sectional championship 200 free relay team, which will join NLC teams from Wawasee, Northridge and Concord in the finals.
Van Wormer returns to Indianapolis for the third time as an individual in working the breaststroke. The senior claimed the sectional title and golden ticket in the event at Warsaw with a 1:07.86 and looks to reach the Saturday swims for the first time. Van Wormer is seeded 25th for the prelims, but Long is confident she can make a move.
“I know Ashley was not real happy with how her season ended last year,” Long said. “She really wants to go to the finals on Saturday. To get to the second day is a big accomplishment, and she really wants it.”
Also making a return to state in her swan song is Juarez in the 500 freestyle. Overshadowed by Miller and Northridge’s Katie Hughes at the NLC, Juarez quietly shaved over 10 seconds from her previous best from the season and continued to make the work pay off. Swimming a 5:29.54 at the sectional, Juarez earned a state appearance just as she did her junior season. While not seeded near the frontrunners, a good 38 seconds behind top-seed Abbegayle Schneider of Fishers, Long emphasized the experience is what matters, especially for his younger swimmers to hear from Juarez and Van Wormer.
“We have been saying all along to just go with what you know,” Long said. “There is no reason why we can’t be one of the fastest in the state of Indiana. Why not? We are not going to be embarrassing anyone.”
Other area swimmers working this weekend at state include Eberle Miller of Culver Academy, Meagan Ronci of Goshen and Hughes in the 200 free; Rory Byrne of Culver Academy and Ashley Schrock of Concord in the IM; Sydney Boyer of Northridge and Katie Lafferty of Bremen in the 50; Andrea Richter of Columbia City in the butterfly; Ronci and Lafferty in the 100 free; Hughes in the 500; Miller of CGA in the backstroke; Schrock in the breaststroke; and CGA, Goshen and Northridge in the 400 free relay.
The IHSAA Girls Swimming State Preliminaries begin at 6 p.m. with finals resuming at 1 p.m. Saturday, which will include diving finals. The diving prelims begin at 9 a.m. Saturday morning.