BY JOSH SIGLER KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — For as great a swimmer Summer Brown is, she’s just as gracious and mature.
The Western senior entered Saturday’s IHSAA state finals looking for redemption after coming up just short of a state championship last season in the 200-yard freestyle, taking second-place by five one-hundredths of a second.
She bettered her 200 free time Saturday by nearly a half of a second, but finished third in 1:48.85, breaking her own school record in the process.
It was a testament to the caliber of prep swimmers in the state, and Brown didn’t show an ounce of disappointment, her smile brimming ear to ear as she put her day and career into perspective. That 200 free time was good enough for just third place Saturday, but it was the eighth-fastest time in state history.
“It was so fast, it was crazy,” Brown said. “I bettered my time, and that’s all I could ever ask of myself. This competition — these girls are so fast. And, it’s getting faster every year. It’s unbelievable how fast both my times were. I was in shock. I’m so grateful to get to be a part of this and have that challenge, especially my senior year.”
Carmel sophomore Claire Adams repeated as state champ in the 200 free in a state-record time of 1:46.95. Brown’s time Saturday would’ve given her a state title last season, but Adams’ state-record swim was one of nine records to fall Saturday, a reverberating theme inside the walls of the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI.
Brown put in one final swim to remember in her prep career in the 500 freestyle finals, where she finished fifth in 4:52.06, breaking her own school record for the third time this postseason, a sectional and state series where she dropped 13 seconds off her time in the event. Crown Point freshman Hannah Kukurugya took state-champion honors in the event in 4:47.83, but Saturday’s 500 free time for Brown was the 19th-fastest time in state history.
Brown’s times in the finals were good enough to earn her All-American honors in both events, further putting into perspective the competition on display Saturday.
“Her places were a little bit short of what her goals were, but her times are better than we’d ever hoped. In all, it’s a successful day,” Western coach Brad Bennett said. “Championships would’ve been nice, but as a coach, how can you ask anything more from a person? What a tremendous effort on her part.”
Brown finishes her prep career with six podium finishes in the eight events in which she competed over four state finals appearances. She finished fifth in the 200 free and seventh in the 100 free as a sophomore, before finishing as the runner-up in the 200 free and sixth in the 100 free last year as a junior.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Brown said. “High school state is so much fun. The energy here is great. You can hear the people screaming, and you’re able to soak it all in and it’s a wonderful feeling. But at the same time, college is a huge deal for me. I’m so excited to be swimming at Vanderbilt and in the SEC. I’m ready to compete in that conference. So, anchor down.”
To Bennett, she’s had an immeasurable impact on the Panthers’ program. She leaves after having a hand in five school records, and along with her state finals success, takes her place among the program’s all-time greats alongside her brother Teddy, a two-time state champion and 2003 mental-attitude winner, and Kylee Wells, the 2000 diving state champion.
“What a phenomenal career. She’s pretty special,” Bennett said of Summer. “She’s the most decorated girls swimmer in school history, only because Kylee, being a diver, didn’t have a chance to compete in two events every state meet. To the program itself, I’d like to think all the girls are going to look up at those times on the wall and say ‘I’m going to beat those.’ But, those 200 and 500 times are pretty fast. She’s meant a lot to the program. Times aside, our teams wouldn’t have been what they were without her setting the tone and showing her teammates what it means to act like a champion and prepare to be your best when it matters.”
In the team standings, Carmel broke seven of those nine records on its way to a 28th-straight state title. Crown Point finished as state runner-up with 209 points, 190 points behind the champion Greyhounds. Brown’s two podium finishes gave Western a 19th-place finish as a team.
Carmel’s Adams also won a state title in the 100 backstroke in a new state record time, and swam anchor leg on the Greyhounds’ 400 freestyle relay team which set another state record on its was to the title.