Boys swimmers across Howard County hit top speed this week as the season kicks into gear. The local group will spend all winter trying to streamline their work in the pool with an eye on the big events at the end of the year — conference meets and a powerhouse Noblesville Sectional, ruled by state superpower Carmel.
As the new season begins, Kokomo’s Wildkats look to an emerging sophomore class as they hope to build on a strong fourth-place finish in last year’s sectional, where the Kats led the Howard County contingent.
Northwestern is poised to have a say on who will top Howard County this season as nearly the entire roster returns for the three-time Mid-Indiana Conference champs.
Western is building with a large group of underclassmen and Eastern hopes a small group can maintain momentum.
Asked for her initial impressions of her squad this season, Purple Tiger coach Cindy Britten spoke in all capitals.
“A-W-E-S-O-M-E,” she said while laughing. “They’re rock solid. We only lost two swimmers from last year and picked up six freshmen, and have 11 swimmers between 10th and 11th grades. And then our senior group is just outstanding. It’s just exciting, another exciting year to look ahead for what’s ahead for Northwestern.”
The Tigers had a strong campaign last time, going unbeaten in the regular season and winning their third straight Mid-Indiana Conference title.
“This team has a lot of experience,” Britten said. “They’ve come up through the ranks. Most of our seniors have swam middle school so they’ve been at it for six years. They may be three-sport athletes but they’ve been in the program so they’re hungry. They’ve been winning and they want to keep that tradition going so they’re working hard at it. They started something here and they want to finish something here.”
The senior group includes Ethan Ault, Nate Engel, Austin Hartman, Tony Janes, Austin Roberts, Drew Rush and Davis Wilkinson.
Juniors are Anthony Catt, Will DeVaul, Griffin Longshore, Kyle Miller, Jacob Schmidt and Sean Witter. Sophomores are Joel Austin, Darren Curry, Drew Harris, Aden Merchant and Michael Thibault.
The freshmen group all swam in middle school. The newcomers are Kasey Ahnert, Cameron Cothern, Will Harris, Daniel Hernandez, Christopher “Gray” Longshore, and Ethan Marks.
Breaststroke and individual medley standout Roberts, sprinter Janes and all-arounder Griffin Longshore had the top results in last season’s sectionals. Those swimmers, and the other seniors, along with sprinter and butterfly specialist DeVaul and distance specialist Miller, form the backbone of the team.
“This group, they’ve had a three-peat in the MIC, and they’re looking to four-peat,” Britten said. “That is one of their biggest goals as seniors. They’re hungry and they’ve started that tradition. They’ve won in middle school, and they’ve kept winning through high school years and now they want to go out with a four-peat. That puts a target on their back so everybody’s gunning for them, but I think they’re up for the challenge. And they’ve got underclassmen who are looking forward to that challenge.”
Northwestern opened the season with a 118-58 victory over Pioneer on Tuesday. Janes led the way as a quadruple winner.