WARSAW – Childhood memories often are accompanied by smiles. Whether it’s with friends, or moments at a family function, or a specific game or time of play. Happy memories tend to last a lifetime.
Taylor Gunter had one of those in February, and she will never forget what it felt like to win a sectional championship as an individual swimmer.
“I remember since I was little wanting to win a sectional title,” started Gunter, who as a junior won the individual medley, her first-ever solo triumph. “When I was on that block waiting to get the ribbon, all the flashbacks of the hard work and the team memories, it all hit me. It meant a lot to me to stand there as a champion on my own. But it was also a wake-up call, I had to go down to state and try to do it again. But thinking about that moment makes me smile every time.”
Gunter claimed the IM at the Warsaw Sectional with a time of 2:22.35, but as she eluded, state didn’t go so well the next weekend, finishing last with a two-second gain at IUPUI. Also failing to make the second day in the medley relay and 200 free relay also came up, as in five state swims, Gunter and her teammates haven’t cracked a second-day swim in a relay or her own IM. She hopes this season will see a change to that.
“It’s the atmosphere that really changes here,” Gunter said. “Sectionals are the first goal, and it’s crazy here with a lot of people here that we know and they’re rooting for us. When you go to state, it’s a giant arena and the competition is much, much better. You get down there, and it’s intimidating. You’re the top dog here at Warsaw, then you go down there and Carmel is killing everyone. That’s a total change.”
Gunter’s IM wasn’t her focus last season, rather she had been one of the better fliers in the area. She doesn’t plan on shifting gears to one versus the other, but feels the preparation for more than just one thing will only help her focus in her final season with the Tigers.
“The last two weeks before sectionals when I was told I had the top seed in the IM, I really had to focus on working on my weak points, which were the breaststroke and maybe get in some more yards in the backstroke,” admitted Gunter. “It just showed me I needed to be more well-rounded and stay hungry.”
Warsaw head coach Anthony DeBrota remembers Gunter’s podium call for the IM last year at the sectional and still has fond memories of yet another swimmer outdoing herself. His hope is the trend continues, not only with Gunter, but a very young program that loses a pair of very accomplished swimmers in Delaney Wihebrink and Olivia Herman, Wihebrink taking third in the breaststroke last year at state, the highest-ever finish for a Warsaw female at the state finals.
“Now she gets that chance to apply the leadership she has seen for three years, and this will be her chance to really make her mark in this program,” said DeBrota of Gunter. “She got to taste an individual championship she didn’t think she could get last year, and now all of that work, her greatness, it was in that moment. She should be able to rise to the challenge and exceed her expectations this year.”
Gunter and the Tigers open their season Saturday at home against Wawasee in the Northern Lakes Conference opener for both clubs. The meet will also have the boys waging battle.