MIDDLEBURY – A sort of order was restored to the Northern Lakes Conference girls swimming world this season. At least in terms of tradition.
After Wawasee shook up the conference in 2014 with its first title in almost two decades, Northridge reloaded with a very strong freshman class and took back what its claimed for most of those last two decades in running 7-0 in NLC duals this year. In doing so, Northridge crushed contenders Concord and Wawasee and put the conference back on alert ahead of this weekend’s NLC Championships at Northridge.
The Lady Raiders have a bevy of stars in tow, led by the prowess of sophomore Katie Hughes and freshmen Lauren Miller, Melissa Bailey and Sydnee Emerson. Add in high school experienced vets like senior Nikki Willey and juniors Sydney Petersheim, Anela Helmuth and Sydney Boyer, and coach Joe Keller has a wealth of options to create ‘A’ lane speed as well as a second high scorer in any event.
Hughes, Boyer and Lauren Miller could create the most noise this weekend, with Hughes looking to assert herself in the 500 freestyle and Miller and Boyer in the speed freestyles and relays. One of the top potential matchups in the entire Championships is the 500, where Hughes and Wawasee sophomore Paige Miller – both of which swam in the consoles of the state finals last February – should have another tremendous head-to-head run.
“That’s a race I think will be excellent,” said Keller. “Katie and Paige are both outstanding swimmers and (the 500) should be a great show from both of them. I think it could be the most contested of all the events.”
Wawasee isn’t ready to lie down and give up its title. In its defense, the Lady Warriors still have the pound-for-pound best swimmer in the conference in senior Bre Robinson and Miller gives Wawasee is formidable one-two punch.
For Wawasee to make any moves to the top of the team standings, it will need all hands on deck. Seniors Kendra Miller, Caitlin Clevenger, Anna Park and Hannah Winters, junior Mikala Mawhorter and sophomores Madison McBride and Shelby Adams all have been key points scorers for Wawasee this season. Coach Julie Robinson will need all of them to keep putting numbers next to their names in Middlebury.
“For the girls this season we are concentrating on each girl individually having the best meet possible,” Robinson said. “We obviously want to go out and race everyone, but I really want the girls to enjoy the moment.”
Bre Robinson is looking to land her sixth and seventh NLC titles to her legacy, likely working the backstroke and butterfly events as she did for most of the season. Wawasee’s 200 and 400 free relays should also have a puncher’s chance in the finals, ranked right up with Northridge and Concord.
Speaking of the Lady Minutemen, coach Tom Johnson could quietly spoil a lot of celebrations and make a few of Concord’s own with a team poised to contend. Senior Ashley Schrock should be the clear-cut favorite in the breaststroke, one in which she has state experience. Schrock’s classmate, Sydney Shuff, and junior Mariah DeFreese should give Concord freestyle power. Sophomore diver Lauren Boone is the returning NLC champion and has been putting up big numbers all season.
Warsaw will likely fall back in the team races in a battle for fourth with Goshen and Memorial. At the front of Warsaw’s NLC chances this weekend will be sophomore Brenna Morgan, who is poised to reclaim glory in the 50 and 100 freestyles she won as a freshman. Morgan will have plenty of competition in the 50 in what usually amounts to a crap shoot race, but the 100 will likely have a logjam at the top.
“Brenna and I have been discussing her speed throughout the 50 and 100 to try and pinpoint where we need to focus to get the best possible time,” Warsaw head coach Tony DeBrota said. “Even though there has been some unexpected challenges throughout NLC competition, I have complete confidence that Brenna will be ready.”
The Northern Lakes Conference Championships begin Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Northridge Natatorium with preliminaries and continue to the finals Saturday at 1 p.m., also at Northridge.