Greenfield-Central has had a stranglehold on the New Palestine Swimming and Diving Sectional for half a decade, and with a talented roster returning for the 2015-16 season, the Cougars are in no hurry to let that dominance falter.
Mt. Vernon, however, is tired of playing second fiddle. The Marauders return enough talent to put an end to the Cougars’ run. But don’t sleep on New Palestine, either, which has the depth in each class to make a run of its own.
Eastern Hancock is moving in the right direction as the program’s first swim club was created in April. A young duo will be key in laying a foundation for the program’s future.
Greenfield-Central won last year’s sectional championship with 482 points while Mt. Vernon finished third behind Connersville with 381. The Dragons were fifth with 156 points, and the Royals finished ninth with 98.
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Will this be the year someone dethrones the Cougars, or will they run away with their sixth straight sectional title?
The Cougars return the core of their sectional-winning roster from 2014-15 after losing only three seniors to graduation. A strong sophomore class will help Greenfield-Central reload with hopes of advancing further in this year’s state tournament.
“We have a pretty versatile group of guys, so most of our season we will swim guys in different events to help determine the best line up come the sectional meet,” head coach Mark Logan said.
Seniors Jared Tomer (200-, 500-yard freestyle) and Jordan Cermak (50, 100 freestyle) return as last year’s top competitors at the sectional, but Logan noted the team’s success will rely on more than just the pair.
Tomer claimed two individual sectional titles in 2014 while Cermak added one (50 free).
“We have a lot of great competitors in our program, and that is a total team effort that gets played out every day in practice, with everyone challenging each other to be the best they can be,” Logan said.
The team’s biggest goal is to have more Cougars represent the program at the state finals at IUPUI in February. Logan said that luckily in swimming, athletes can automatically qualify in the first round (sectional).
“We are striving to send more swimmers to state meet,” Logan said. “That is our focus this season, having swimmers bettering the state cut times.”
Sophomores Layne Kintner, Ethan Kile and Zachary Cook, and junior Allen Forbes are back with experience and are expected to have increased roles.
Senior Jacob Keener also returns after finishing seventh at the Plainfield Diving Regional last season. He will be pushed by sophomore diver Ben Rader, who finished 16th at the regional in his first year of high school.
Eastern Hancock head swim coach Derek McCormick sees nothing but promise when looking at his young swim program. After starting a swim club at the school earlier this year, McCormick is on a mission to build some special in Charlottesville.
The popularity of other sports has made that difficult, though, as the football and wrestling programs have been carefully developed over time. The sport of swimming is new to most Royals.
“I’m trying to do it from the bottom up,” McCormick said. “(I’m) trying to get elementary students more involved. That way when they’re older they will be more prepared.”
A young duo will be instrumental to the team’s success this season and already has taken advantage of the club, McCormick said.
“Chris Walton and Lane Coffin are benefiting from it the most,” he said. “Chris will be my strongest swimmer. He’s already faster in both his events. We are looking for him to lead the way.”
Walton will swim in the 500 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. The pair will likely swim in multiple relays, as well.
Coffin only has middle school experience but has the potential to be very good, according to McCormick. And despite the team’s low numbers this season, the head coach likes its spirit.
“He doesn’t know he’s going to be good, but we’re working on him. They all are really close this year and wanting to get better,” McCormick said. “As we get better hopefully the word will get out.”
Talent isn’t the question when looking at the Marauders’ roster. Depth? That’s the real question. But according to head coach Matt Kruse, Mt. Vernon replenished its roster and now has 20 boys ready to compete.
“The boys had some very good talent leave last year, but at the same time (they) still hold on to some very experienced swimmers,” he said. “Also, we have brought in a lot of athletic freshman in. It’s a work in progress, but I see the team getting better.”
Seniors Dixon Tierny and Matt Bauchert, and junior Bryce Gray are no strangers to the pool, but after losing Daniel Majors, Cole Case and Zane Smith to graduation, Mt. Vernon will rely heavily on the trio to score points this season.
Tierny won the sectional championship in 200 individual medley last season and finished second in the 100 yard butterfly. He helped the Marauders claim both the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.
“It looks like we are going to have strong swimmers in every event, and the relays we put together this year should be even faster than the sectional wins we had last year,” Kruse said.
Bauchert placed third in the 50 freestyle and fifth in the 100 freestyle last season and expects to have a chance at sectional title once February rolls around.
Gray finished third behind Tierny in the 200 IM last season and fourth in the 100 backstroke. Also expected to contribute are sophomore Tim Broaders and Nathan Owen, as well as junior Kreig Frye.
Eleven swimmers are back for the Dragons from last year’s 17-member squad, and nearly all of them advanced to a second swim at the sectional meet in 2015.
Head coach Steve Maxwell said New Palestine will rely on a core of upperclassmen to lead the way as seniors Conner Page (diving, backstroke), Luke Reed (individual medley, breaststroke), Joey Rogers (individual medley, breaststroke) and Matthew Taylor-Smith will be key contributors. Each one has been positive, long-time role model for the program.
“We’re lucky to have strong leadership from our seniors and juniors to give the underclassmen a strong foundation in their athletic development and their presentation as positive student-athletes to the New Palestine community,” Maxwell said.
Not only do the Dragons have experience at the top, they have depth in between. Maxwell said this will be the largest boys team in three seasons.
“Attitudes and early workouts have been promising, and we hope to build on this start,” he said.
Also expected to contribute are Michael O’Leary, Sutton Briddle, Chase Crowder and Nico Martin. Maxwell said confidence and sticking to proper swim techniques will help the Dragons become more prepared when the state tournament arrives.
“I want to prepare the guys to be more aggressive in their races — to trust they can finish races strong,” he said. “I believe we have a confidence and trust in each other and that each of the men will be ready to perform at the sectional.
“We have, historically, done very well individually in our sectional swims and have enjoyed many personal-bests.”