SYRACUSE – For the first time in a lifetime, literally, the target will be pinned squarely on Wawasee’s girls swim team’s swimsuits.
Sectional champs for the first time since 1999. Northern Lakes Conference champions and undefeated for the first time since 1996. Drawing envy from Concord AND Northridge for the first time ever. It’s an interesting time for Wawasee swimming, which also placed in a handful of events at the state meet adding to a historical year.
To add to the hoopla coming into the 2014-15 season, Wawasee graduated just two from its roster and bring back most of its big guns for another run.
At the top of it all is Purdue-bound senior Bre Robinson, who has not only taken the NLC by storm, but has finished within the top three in six state events and will be itching to go out a state champion come season’s end. Robinson holds over a dozen school, pool and conference records to her name and will headline whatever events she decides to settle into as the season unfolds.
But Robinson did not guide the team to glory alone last season, and much of the supporting cast are in place to continue the trend. Five seniors in total all have multiple years of varsity and state experience and will help buoy the program. Anna Park, Hannah Winters, Kendra Miller and Caitlin Clevenger all return to provide frontline strength in nearly every event, and all are versatile in working both freestyle and specialized events.
Wawasee’s junior class boasts of a pair of state-experienced swimmers in Mikala Mawhorter and Kayla Hershberger and the sophomore class that includes breaststroke school-record holder Shelby Adams, state freestyler Paige Miller and battle-tested Madison McBride.
Wawasee also has a competitive diver in Hannah Rhoades, who will score Wawasee points before the swimming even begins.
“We start the season like a new team and I don’t put any expectations on them based on last year,” said Wawasee head coach Julie Robinson. “I know there is a lot of pressure put on them from outside sources, so I just want them to come in and swim for today. At the end of the day, I want to teach them life skills, a good work ethic, and set some goals they can try to reach.”
Heading down Kosciusko County to Warsaw, a couple big graduation hits, a new head coach and a large freshman class will present several question marks for the Lady Tigers team.
Anthony DeBrota takes over for departed Nate Long as head coach, having served as a program assistant in recent years. DeBrota will have his hand’s full with a girls team that lost a pair of state-caliber swimmers in Cynthia Juarez and Ashley Van Wormer and will face a conference that is loaded with Wawasee, Northridge, Goshen and Concord all boasting young, state-experienced swimmers.
One of Warsaw’s lead returners is sophomore Brenna Morgan, who not only holds the school records in the 50 and 100 freestyles, but won the state consolation race in the 100. Morgan also claimed the NLC and sectional titles in both races earlier in her maiden season.
Warsaw will also have a few nice pieces to work with in senior Karly Poyner, junior Erin Sandberg, as well as freshman Savannah Tayler, part of over a dozen newbies into the program.
Continuing down to the bottom of the county, Tippecanoe Valley will continue to improve with a healthy number of swimmers in its girls program. The Lady Vikings have 14 on the active roster to start the year, and five seniors including Sara Jones and Joy Hurd with sectional experience.
Junior Kate Gunter should lead the group after a strong sophomore campaign which ended with a finals swim in the 100 butterfly at the Warsaw Sectional.
Wawasee will open its season this Saturday at home against DeKalb, Warsaw Tuesday at home with Manchester and Valley will open at home Dec. 1 against NorthWood.