SYRACUSE – It’s a brave, new world for the Wawasee girls swim program.
In the ‘post-Robinson’ era, at least in the pool, Wawasee will have to find new reliability while developing a whole bunch of young talent along the way. With Breanna Robinson graduated, combined with older sister Brittany, the two helped build a legacy for Wawasee to continue to carry on. The two sisters set or helped set over 75 records over their seven overlapping years at Wawasee and have their names tied to eight school and seven pool records. But three names on the Wawasee school record board are still in Syracuse, and look to cement their marks as well.
Wawasee will have a solid core of swimmers to maintain its status as one of the premier clubs in the Northern Lakes Conference. Seniors Kayla Hershberger and Mikala Mawhorter both return with three years of varsity experience, and juniors Shelby Adams, Paige Miller and Madison McBride also return two years each. Hershberger and Miller were part of a very solid 400 free relay team that holds Wawasee’s school record (3:34.15) while Miller is the best 500 swimmer in Wawasee’s history (5:00.24) and Adams the top breaststroker (1:10.48).
Hershberger has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Warriors, having swam most freestyle events as well as the backstroke at the NLC level. Entering her senior season, she’s hoping to take the next step personally, but also showing some of the famed senior leadership with a group that has 11 brand new swimmers on the roster.
“We have to work hard in practice, it starts there,” Hershberger said. “We’re going to have a really fun team this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what this team can do. I think it’s important for a team to be close to each other. We have a lot of new people on the team, and want them to know what it feels like to be on the team and what it takes to go where we want to go.”
Miller will be one to watch, finishing 15th at the state finals in the 500 and 20th in the individual medley. The tall and slender junior has only improved in her first two years, and should contend individually among the elite once again. Adams has emerged as the top breaststroke swimmer Wawasee has ever had, setting the school record twice and likely will maintain as one of the conference’s elite. Mawhorter has swam the butterfly and sprints well, but was paired with Robinson in the fly and with graduated senior Kendra Miller in the 50 free the past two years. Look for the senior to take a step forward.
Junior Jasmine Morehead and sophomore Lizzy Brugh also return.
Wawasee also returns a trio of seasoned divers in seniors Hannah Rhoades and Rachel Starrett along with junior Riley Kunkle.
“We have always focused on our own times, and what we need to do as individuals,” said Wawasee head coach Julie Robinson. “We haven’t ever worried about what other teams have been doing, and that really hasn’t changed with us this year. We make our goals and go after them.”
Wawasee’s opening meet against DeKalb was cancelled, so it will open Nov. 24 against East Noble.
Key Returners: Allison Thompson, Brenna Morgan, Christina Park, Laurel Moeller, Lauren Kuhl, Savannah Taylor, Stephany Bailey
Key Losses: Karly Poyner, Jess Haines
Key Newcomers: Bridgette Yoder (transfer), Delaney Wihebrink
Coach DeBrota’s Comments: “We have a solid base of sophomores that I really like. Last year, we had so many inexperienced swimmers and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out where to put the pieces together. Now I feel like we have the talent there, but we have to make sure we line that talent up perfectly to compete.
“I think Brenna has a different mindset coming into this year,” continued DeBrota, noting Morgan’s aspirations now to swim collegiately. “We got to talk about that a lot this summer. She has a training regiment with (Moeller and Kuhl) and that’s starting to spread around to the other girls as well. They are all feeding off each other.”
Warsaw opens Nov. 24 at Manchester.
Key Returners: Kate Gunter, Lea Stouder, Caitlyn Bailey, Julie Pomeroy, Cheyenne Holmes, Tricia Rudolph
Key Losses: Joy Hurd, Sara Jones, Mia McHaffey
Key Newcomers: Kinzie Prater, Tiana Mattern, Kylie Mayorga
Note: Longtime coach Buddy Busby retired following last season, opening the door for Matt Craig to take over for the Vikings.
Valley visits NorthWood to kick off its season Nov. 30.