By TRIBUNE SPORTS STAFF
---- — CARMEL — For the fourth straight year, Summer Brown is headed to the girls swimming state finals in multiple events.
The Western senior and Vanderbilt recruit punched a pair of tickets Saturday in the Carmel Sectional. She earned sectional-champion honors in the 200-yard freestyle and placed third in the 500 free, making the state cut in the latter for the state meet next weekend at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis.
“Her work ethic is second to none,” Western coach Brad Bennett said. “She’s focused on her goals and goes after achieving them year-round. She does a great job of goal-setting in a way that culminates in this month. I’m just very lucky as a coach to be able to coach someone like Summer.”
Brown took top honors in the 200 free in 1:51.81, ahead of defending state champion Claire Adams of Carmel. Adams edged Brown in the state finals a season ago.
The top four swimmers in Saturday’s 200 free final were in a dead heat at the last turn, but Brown was able to out-swim the field for the top spot on the podium.
“It was a good race against the defending state champion in Claire Adams,” Bennett said. “Hopefully it was a good preview of what we’re going to see Friday and Saturday [at state]. But we plan on doing our best regardless of what anyone else does, continuing to improve.”
Brown broke her own school record in placing third in the 500 free in 5:00.43. The record had stood since she swam a 5:05.23 in the state finals as a freshman.
“Placing higher would’ve been nice, but you can’t ask for anything more than a five-second drop from your best time,” Bennett said. “So it was a great swim, really smooth. She really set herself up for some success next weekend.”
No. 1-ranked and 27-time defending state champion Carmel won the team sectional title with 564 points, advancing all 27 of its swimming entrants to the state finals. Noblesville (450), Westfield (337), Northwestern (192) and Western (187) rounded out the top five. Maconaquah (139), Eastern (96) and Kokomo (82) rounded out the top eight.
Western competed in the finals of all three relay events. The 400 free team of Claire Casner, Brittany Lake, Brown and Lily Armour took fourth. Casner, Ally Purvis, Brown and Danielle Pate took fifth in the 200 free. And the 200 medley team of Lake, Purvis, Pate and Anna Constable finished seventh.
Northwestern also was in the finals of all three relays. The Tiger team of Kindra Gingerich, Addie Roth, Jenna Harrison and Mariah Roberts was fourth in the 200 medley. Jenna Harrison, Roberts, Savannah Gamester and Jordyn Harrison were fourth in the 200 free. And Gamester, Gingerich, Jordyn Harrison and Roth were fifth in the 400 free.
The Tigers’ 200 free relay team had a school-record time of 1:46.95.
Individually, Jordyn Harrison and Gamester competed in one final apiece. Harrison was sixth in the 100 free and Gamester was eighth in the 100 backstroke.
“We had an exciting day,” Northwestern coach Cindy Britten said, noting divers Rachel Jones (seventh place) and Abby Olsen (13th) provided boosts with nice showings to start the day. “The swimmers just performed outstanding. Dropped a ton of time, moved up several places. We ended up beating rival Western. They beat us at [Mid-Indiana Conference] so that was one of our goals, to try and beat them at sectional and we ended up doing that.
“The girls did great. It was a fitting way to end the season. I’m proud of them.”
Kokomo had a pair of relay teams in finals. Sara White, Brooke Dill, Sydney Glassburn and Jessica Estep were seventh in the 200 free and White, Katherine Harbaugh, Jessica Gates and Autumn Carroll were eighth in the 400 free.
Eastern was sixth in the final of the 200 medley relay. The Comets’ team was composed of Alicia Eckart, Callie Burnette, Katherine Swartzendruber and Avery Ewing.
Maconaquah was led by Gabby Ladd, who was sixth in the 50 free, and Kaleigh Gray, who was sixth in diving.
Tipton was led by Tori Crail’s fourth-place finish in diving. She advances to the Tuesday’s diving regional at Hamilton Southeastern.
Western had many good swims in the consolation finals. Leading that charge were Lake (ninth in the 200 IM and 10th in the 500 free), Casner (ninth in the 100 butterfly and 11th in the 50 free) and Armour (11th in the 200 free).
“It’s been a good weekend for the program and the team,” Bennett said. “A real positive is that we only had three juniors swimming. The rest of the team was comprised of Brown and [Kelsey] Quinn as seniors and Casner as a freshman. The rest are sophomores, and as a coach, that’s a positive to have that much strength coming from the sophomore class.
“Our girls were undefeated in dual meets and won the conference, and came in and swam their best times Friday and Saturday. I couldn’t have asked for more from a nice group of girls.”
Northwestern also had a lot of good swims in the consolation finals highlighted by Jordyn Harrison’s ninth-place finish in the 200 free, Gingerich’s ninth place in the 100 back, Jenna Harrison’s 10th place in the 100 fly and 12th place in the 50 free, and Roth’s 10th place in the 100 breaststroke and 11th place in the 200 IM.
Kokomo’s best individual showing came in the diving program where Hannah Reecer took eighth place.
Kokomo coach Donita Walters noted her team performed well. In particular, she liked the time drops she saw.
“It was a lot of fun to watch,” Walters said, referring to her swimmers and also other Howard County swimmers with whom she has worked. “It was a rewarding day as a coach.”
Eastern’s best showing in the consolation finals came from Swartzendruber, who was 11th in the 100 breaststroke.