The reality of 2020 is that you can’t forecast days or weeks in advance.
Local girls swim coaches have their ideal lineups and each swimmer has their specializations or strengths, but what a swimmer may have to do can change in an instant. Meets are moved, opponents might change, and the availability of teammates can change as well.
Coaches, teams and swimmers have to be flexible.
“I’ve told the kids that because of the COVID and because of quarantine, they are all 100 butterfliers, and they are all freestylers,” Northwestern coach Donita Walters said. “There is no set swim. All of the underclassmen need to be prepared to step up. Everybody has a role this year, and they’ve all got to be prepared to swim anything on that board.”
That’s Northwestern’s emphasis this season and it applies to other schools as well. Any swimmer who can swim a given event might get called on. Teams and swimmers will have to handle changing conditions in order to succeed.
Below are looks at all four Howard County girls squads.
With a big crew of 28 swimmers, Northwestern is well-prepared to make adjustments on the fly this season. The Purple Tigers were Hoosier Conference champions last season and had finished fourth in the Noblesville Sectional — the best result of any local school. They lead the way as the new season begins.
“We’re really excited for this ladies’ season,” Walters said. “The girls look great this year despite everything we’re dealing with this year.”
Walters is enthused about the leadership of the seniors, including Ann Bourff, Maddy Baxter and Samantha Bumgardner, and said that junior Jaylyn Harrison and sophomore Catherine Bath “are in there leading the charge in terms of work ethic.” The sophomore class is strong, and freshman Hannah Moore, who reached the state finals in cross country, has impressed so far in the pool.
Harrison was a triple-winner at the HC meet in January with individual wins in the 50 free and 100 breaststroke, as well as teaming with Bourff and Lauren Martin to win the 200 free relay. Harrison was third in the 50 free in the sectional for NW’s best result. She added a fifth in the 100 free and Bath was sixth in the 100 backstroke.
Some key swimmers from the sophomore class include Ashley Ream, Martin, Aubrey Evilsizer, Jaden Short and Christian Smith.
Northwestern is fully stocked with divers in freshmen Kenzie Rogers and Bri Haworth joining senior Kaleigh Wiley.
“I’m ecstatic about where we’re going to go this year,” Walters said. “The fire’s still burning.”
What has stood out to Walters is the swimmers’ “work ethic. They’re no longer just saying ‘we want this,’ … they’re showing me that they want this. All of our kids have to make goals and they hang them on the wall outside the pool and they high five them as they come in. They’re showing me, not just saying … they’re showing me by their actions and training.”
Northwestern’s first meet is Nov. 24 at home against Twin Lakes.
The Panthers have a lot to replace to get back to where they left off last season. Western was seventh in the sectional.
“We had a massive graduating class, but we’ve got some great swimmers back and we’re kind of off to a really positive start in practice,” Western coach Brad Bennett said.
“Our biggest challenge is our girls that have kind of swam in the shadows of swimmers in the past are learning they’re going to play a really big role on this team. Our standout freshman from last year, Anna Moore, a sophomore this year, has put in a lot of work in the offseason and it really shows.”
Moore’s strengths are the butterfly, 500 free and sprints. She took second in the 200 free at the HC meet last season.
Bennett said Western will also rely on several other swimmers. Junior Genesis Everling is strong in the backstroke and sprints. Sophomore Chase Hayes excels in sprints and backstrokes. Sophomore Sophie Moreno will have a say in the 200 free, 500 free and IM. Junior Olivia Shoemaker makes a difference in breaststroke and sprints. And Olivia Green, the team’s lone senior, has a lot of weight on her shoulders as a team leader in addition to her work as a diver.
A couple key newcomers are versatile freshman Gracie Burns and freshman diver Ava Wenger.
Other juniors on the squad are: Madi Connolly, a diver who will take on an increased sprinting role as well; Annie Dunham, who bolsters relay squads; Mille Halbaek, an exchange student from the Netherlands who dives and swims; Lindsay Larson, who last swam in middle school and adds depth; and Andrea Polakova, an exchange student from the Czech Republic with a good swimming background.
Sophomores include Emma Barnett, Cami Caldwell, multi-stroke and distance swimmer Madisyn Schorm, Kendall Rhees and gritty swimmer Mackenzie Tedder. Other freshmen include all-arounder Carmynne Ciscell, multi-stroke swimmer Dani Dalpoas, and Jada Sceggell.
“I’m really hoping these girls find their groove,” Bennett said. “I’m hoping they’re able to make this team their own and everybody discovers their own role and helps eachother discover their role and win a lot of swim meets.
“We could have a conference championship team if everybody’s healthy. Or we could go into conference with seven, 10 of our girls gone. The thing that I’ve been hammering home to our girls is a big part of our strategy of success is to stay healthy and not be contact traced [due to exposure to someone with COVID], not to not be able to be in the pool because of proximity to someone sick.”
Western’s first meet is Nov. 23 at home against Oak Hill.
New coach Trevor Trimpe joins the Katfish after coaching in college — including at IUK rival West Virginia Tech — and most recently a club program in Minnesota. He takes over a squad which returns the bulk of its scoring from taking fourth in the North Central Conference meet last season, and benefits from a key addition.
“I think I have a really good squad,” Trimpe said. “The girls have been working hard for the first three weeks. We have a transfer from Western, [senior] Jenaka Hawkins, that’s going to make an immediate impact and has a chance to get the school record in the 100 breaststroke. A junior, Macee Reckard, is coming off a really good year last year and has put the time in this summer and fall.
“Overall in the first three weeks, I like the ladies so far. They look solid.”
Three more swimmers that the Katfish will rely on to score are junior Emily Lucas, senior Emily Griggs, and sophomore Paige Wilson, who is expected to swim the 100 free, 100 butterfly and be a key relay swimmer.
Reckard had runner-up swims in the 200 free and 100 backstroke at the NCC meet, and was eighth in both those events at the sectional, where the Kats finished ninth. Lucas was third in the 100 breaststroke. Hawkins took seventh in the 100 breaststroke at the sectional while swimming with Western last season.
Also back to the squad are seniors Rachel Hillman, Stormy Blake, Kendra Cline and Katelyn McGraw and juniors Lily Johnson, Rebecca Stillwell, Rilyn Wonnell and Arianna Fox. There are four newcomers, senior Albanian exchange student Amanda Pillati, junior Liseth Corrales, junior Kylie Lewis and junior Julynne Spidell. McGraw and Lewis are the divers.
The chief goal is simple.
“No. 1, I’m hoping that we are at least able to compete. I hope we’re able to have our conference meet and sectional,” Trimpe said. “I hope the swimmers have fun and enjoy the season as much as they can.”
Kokomo’s first meet is Nov. 23 at Manchester.
The Comets graduated a significant class but return all last season’s underclassmen. The 27-member squad hopes to make progress after taking second in the Hoosier Heartland Conference last season and 10th in the sectional.
“I have a lot of high hopes for this year’s squad,” said coach Sarah Nibert (formerly Klemmensen). “My seniors this year are very strong, and the junior class under them is also very strong. In our first few practices they have put in a lot of hard work, and they have shown that they are ready to step it up this year. I also had a lot of talent come up in my freshmen class.”
A key member of the senior class is Lauryn Shane, who won the 500 free at the HHC meet last year and teamed with returners Ella Kantz and Cora Kendall to help the Comets win the 400 free relay. Shane had Eastern’s best individual swim in the sectional, taking 12th in the 500 free.
“Lauryn Shane will be one that I rely on a lot,” Nibert said. “She’s multi-faceted, and I know that I can put her in anything and she will do well. I’m also very excited that our diver, sophomore Leah Jordan, has returned to the squad and shows a lot of promise for this season.”
The Comets feature several more key swimmers. Seniors Kantz and Erin Matheny join Shane in options at almost any spot, though Shane and Matheny are best suited for distance events while Kantz is a good option for the 200 free and breaststroke.
Kendall, a junior, won the 100 butterfly at last season’s HHC meet and is also a good option in the IM. Other key juniors include sprinter Belle Ewing and the team’s top backstroker Lola Williams. Sophomores include backstroker Lilly Shallenberger and butterflier Becky Crabtree, both of whom are in sprints as well. Some freshmen who may factor in are Layne Shedron, Grace VanBibber, Addie Conner and Betsy Rayl.
Nibert is also emphasizing flexibility as teams throughout the state deal with an unpredictable COVID situation.
“I really think that this squad will build on what we started last year,” Nibert said. “My seniors are hungry for a strong season. They want conference so bad. The last time we won was their freshmen year, and they are ready for that title again. I believe that this team will do that. They have already put in so much work this season. And they are keeping the other girls encouraged to work hard even though weird things are happening this season.
“Honestly, my biggest hope is to just have a season. I’m sure that’s what every other coach is saying, but it’s true. After that, the hope is to win conference. I hope that the girls keep their positive attitudes even though this season will be our most difficult one yet.”
Eastern opens Tuesday at Blackford.