WARSAW – Typically, a six-time defending champion in any sport would have a ton of buzz heading into their final hurrah of tournaments. With much of the swim attention – and rightfully so – focused at Northridge and their juggernaut once again circling the wagons as the Northern Lakes Conference tournament approaches, Warsaw’s shining star continues to fly well under the radar.
It’s been four years since Brenna Morgan disrupted the conference hierarchy, coming in as a wide-eyed freshman and claiming titles in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles at the NLC meet in 2014. With that performance in the Concord pool, Morgan began her assault on the NLC record book. Morgan has lowered the championship time in both events in each of the last three years, going 24.44 in the 50 and 53.20 in the 100 as a freshman, then dropping to a 24.07 and 51.88 as a sophomore and 23.94 and 51.50 as a junior.
Morgan, who is currently dealing with a lingering shoulder injury, should be ready to go but knows that simply showing up at the Northridge facility on Jan. 12 for prelims and Jan. 14 for the finals won’t automatically have ribbons handed to her.
“I try to not take anything for granted,” Morgan said following a holiday practice. “Things can always change, so you always have to be ready to work hard and always try to improve. You never know who is going to be right next to you. I don’t feel over-dominant or comfortable that I am the leader of an event just because of what I’ve been able to do in the past. I try to always take that mindset into every meet.”
Morgan, who is the Warsaw record holder in both events, set those marks at the sectional last winter with times of 23.55 and 50.80. She has qualified for state in the two events in all three seasons as well, including a consolation win and a podium along the way.
The NLC championships will have a unique wrinkle this year, with three major Division I recruits for the same program swimming in the same meet. Purdue University was able to snap up Katie Hughes of Northridge, Paige Miller of Wawasee and Morgan all this year, Hughes and Miller of course waging epic battles in the 500 freestyles in recent vintage. Morgan, who is a verbal commit with the Boilermakers, is excited to be joining forces with Hughes and Miller in West Lafayette next fall.
“They have so many opportunities as far as academics and their swim program,” Morgan said of choosing Purdue. “I really enjoyed the team. They are very focused and very hard-working, and that is something that draws me to Purdue. Being close to home, too, it’s just the perfect opportunity for me.”
Four-peating in the 50 and 100 frees won’t be a cake walk, especially in the 100. Northridge speed demon Lauren Miller is likely setting up to race the event at conference, and has beaten Morgan head-to-head (54.12-54.60) in the team’s dual on Dec. 8 at Warsaw. The 50, which is the biggest crap shoot of them all, has several competitors who can push low 24’s, which will test the arm strength of Morgan in a championship final.
“We know that the Northridges and the Concords of the world are going to press Brenna, and we have to be ready,” said Warsaw head coach Tony DeBrota. “When it’s time to strike, you have to be ready. And for three years now, she has been. And I don’t think that changes any at this year’s conference meet.
“I don’t think Brenna has ever been a person that enjoys being in the spotlight. But the way she swims, it comes with it. But compared from her freshman year to her senior year, she’s changed a lot. It may not seem like it, but she has. She has handled the pressure of delivering so much more. She doesn’t have that celebratory stance like others do, hers is more of relief that she achieved a goal. There’s a big level of class in that, which I think works for her.”
The NLC Championships begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Northridge with preliminaries and resume Saturday at 1 p.m. with consolation and championship finals.