For Howard County’s girls swimming squads, when sectional time arrives, Carmel is the five-ton elephant in the natatorium. The conversation is unavoidable.
The sectional-host Greyhounds have developed an unmatched dynasty in the pool, claiming an unfathomable 27 straight state championships, a national record for girls prep sports.
Entering tonight’s preliminary round, all of their relays enter with seed times below state cut time. They also boast at least two swimmers with seed times below state cut in every individual event.
As a result, county and area teams headed to Carmel are forced to mold their goals and expectations around a little bit more restraint than schools headed to other sites to begin postseason battle.
“It’s not just Carmel, we’re competing against some pretty big schools in Westfield and Noblesville also,” Western coach Brad Bennett said. “Most of the top eight [in each event] is made up of those guys, with the occasional Maconaquah, Western or Northwestern mixed in. It’s pretty lopsided towards the larger schools, but I think of the smaller schools, we have the best chance of knocking some of them out and represent Howard County pretty well.”
The top 16 swimmers in each event tonight advance to Saturday’s final round, where the top eight will swim in the championship heat, with those who place ninth through 16th in the prelims competing in the consolation heat. The winner of each championship heat Saturday, plus anyone else finishing in state-cut time, advances to the state finals Feb. 14 at the Indiana University Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis.
The area’s best chance of a berth in state lies on the shoulders of Western senior Summer Brown, last year’s state runner-up in the 200-yard freestyle.
Brown also made the podium in the 100 freestyle, finishing sixth in the state a year ago. The Vanderbilt University recruit has opted to switch events this season, however. Along with competing with her teammates in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays, Brown will drop the 100 free in favor of the 500 free.