DUNLAP – The Northern Lakes Conference Boys Swim Championships saw Northridge and Concord dual to the end. Nothing new there. But some boys from Kosciusko County made a lot of noise to break up the bitter rivalry, at least for a few moments.
Northridge again was the ruler of the roost Saturday afternoon, winning its 20th straight conference crown with 418.5 points to runner-up Concord’s 385. Ridge posted seven event champions, but the meet was anything but a cakewalk.
The Raiders won three of the first four events, taking the medley relay at 1:37.42, then having Nick Dibley grab the 200 free at 1:43.43. After Concord’s Kallaghan Findley posted a 1:54.59 win in the individual medley, Raider sophomore Joey Garberick hung a 21.90 in the 50 free that stunned several even in the Ridge camp.
“We spent a lot of time talking this week about what it means and how many people were involved in 20 years of winning the conference meet,” said Northridge head coach Kyle Hembree. “When they came out and swam today, they weren’t just swimming for the 14 guys on the team, they were swimming for all the other conference champions, all the other alumni. They just totally showed up and raced today. That was awesome.”
Dibley and Garberick would add second wins to their day, Dibley in the butterfly (52.09) and Garberick in the 100 free (48.57), but Ridge’s final two wins would come in much more exciting fashion.
Trevor Sallee was well on his way to a comfortable win in the 500 free, holding a full length lead on the field, including Wawasee’s Jared Krugman. The eighth lap of the race, however, saw Krugman pull his way into Sallee’s wake and suddenly going stroke for stroke into the final 100. Sallee never lost his lead, but had to outreach Krugman at the wall at 4:45.32 to Krugman’s 4:45.83.
The backstroke was even closer. Northridge’s Tyler Overmyer, coming in as the top seed from the prelims, got all he could handle from Wawasee’s Brady Robinson. Overmyer held the advantage going into the final turn, and emerged in the same position on the final 25. Robinson’s kick was good, but Overmyer didn’t lose his rhythm and touched at 53.57, one one-hundredth of a second faster than Robinson.
Ridge even got one more on Robinson to end the meet, Dibley getting to the wall at 3:19.35 to beat Robinson’s touch at 3:19.55, both coming short of Concord’s 3:17.33 title that felt much more like a consolation prize.
“It’s where you go from here, and I think (Brady) needs to realize this is one day. Look at everything else and move forward, look toward sectionals,” said Wawasee head coach Julie Robinson. “Jared was so close to the state cut (4:39.96) today. It was a matter of ‘can I do it? Can I do it?’ and he was so close. Jared had a really smart plan and he stuck to it. If he maybe turns it on a little sooner, he would have had that.”
The only title coming outside of an Elkhart County school went to Warsaw’s Grant Knight in the breaststroke. Squaring off against Findley and a whole bunch of support from the east side of the Concord Aquatic Center, Knight got off the block quick and took a surprisingly big lead into the second lap. As he headed home, Findley wasn’t anywhere close, and Knight would cruise to a 57.77 winner, a full second-and-a-half ahead.
“The problem with Grant sometimes is that when he gets out too fast, he hits a brick wall. Today, he pushed through that wall and looked as good as I’ve ever seen him,” said Warsaw head coach Tony DeBrota. “I told him ‘you’ve gotta keep going’. It’s good to see that big, big boost, but I also saw him draw back a little. We’ll work on it.”
Concord would capture titles in the 200 free relay at 1:28.69 and also in diving with Austin Leas posting a 499.55, clobbering the closest competitor, NorthWood’s Caden Jenkins, but over 100 points.
Wawasee finished third in the meet with 310 points to Warsaw’s fourth-place 301.5 points. The Warriors had Krugman finish third in the 200 free, Robinson take third in the IM, Brett Willaman post a pair of top-sixes, Austin Dunithan take third in diving, and Jake Cowan take fifth in the 500 among its day that saw 16 swims and dives achieve lifetime bests.
“Across the board, we just had a lot of lifetime bests and great swims,” Robinson said. “Coming into the day, we swam a little slow at the start, but once they got their minds on what they needed to do, they competed and did really well.”
Warsaw had Evan Borchers finish second in the fly and fourth in the 200, Alex Cook take third in both the 50 and 100 frees, the medley relay place second, and both Ian Deming and Grant Knight land fourth-place times.
“Today was great to see all the quality that a Northridge or Concord will bring to a state meet,” DeBrota said. “We just have to stay focused, work on our fundamentals and we should be fine at sectionals and maybe see these guys again.”
NorthWood had just four total swims in championship heats, with all three of its relays taking eighth and Jason McNeill moving up one spot from eighth in prelims to seventh in the finals of the 500.