INDIANAPOLIS — The Greenfield-Central seniors wore their intentions Sharpied over their hearts during Saturday’s IHSAA swimming and diving state meet.
And they lived every word.
With “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” scribed on their chests, a latin phrase from William Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar”, the Cougars swam toward a pair of state medals and seven top-16 finishes to place 10th overall as a team inside the IU Natatorium at IUPUI.
“I came. I saw. I conquered,” Greenfield-Central senior Zachary Cook remarked on his teammate’s inspirational body art. “It was for us to come in, do our best no matter where we’re at. That was the goal the entire time.”
One team placement higher than last year’s ninth-place finish, the Cougars’ collective focus led to eight new school records and a sixth-place finale for the 200-yard freestyle relay team along with a runner-up up swim by Cook in the 100 butterfly.
As expected, Carmel won it’s fourth consecutive team state title with a meet record 417 points, winning nine events in the process. The Greyhounds were so dominant, runner-up Franklin only scored 203 points while Zionsville was third at 185.
The Greyhounds’ times challenged and broke national and state records, which pushed their competitors’ speeds across the field in every event, including Cook, who posted a school-record 48.58 in the 100 butterfly.
Pitted against potential national swimmer of the year Drew Kibler of Carmel, Cook was hoping to repeat as the state’s 100 butterfly champion, and he nearly did before taking second and securing 17 of his team’s 77 overall points.
“I knew going in he was faster than me. I’d raced him before, but I just had fun with it, and I had a best time, so I’m happy,” Cook said. “I was with him until the end, so I did my best. The fastest bring out the fast in you.”
Cook, an Indiana University recruit, competed against Kibler during a USA Swimming’s Junior Nationals event in the past. Kibler, who is committed to Texas, stayed ahead of Cook at state with a winning time of 47.16. Cook won the state title last season with a 48.60.
“He was with him right into the last streamline, the last 25 (yards), and Zach gave it all he had,” Greenfield-Central head coach Mark Logan said. “There’s no doubt he left it all out there and gave it his all.”
The theme carried throughout the weekend for the Cougars as sophomore Sam Jennings set a new school record for 19th in the 200 freestyle at 1:43.58 on Friday night.
Senior Ethan Kile established a new school mark in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:53.84 for 18th, and he claimed 15th in the 100 breaststroke on Saturday for a school-best time of 58.70.
Senior Chris Joven finished 11th in the 50 free in a time of 21.11 and was ninth in the 100 free at 46.65, which moved him up from 12th during Friday night’s preliminaries.
Joven set a new school record for the 100 free as the lead leg on the 400 free relay on Friday and registered another school standard in the 50 free on the 200 free relay.
“I’m so proud to have worked with these guys. It’s been an honor and a privilege. These guys have been my family for the past five years, and I can’t even imagine high school without them,” Joven said.
Joven, Kile, Cook and freshman Travis Black teamed to set a new school mark in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:25.19.
“I think we’re all really proud of that because this was our first year for us three seniors on that relay, swimming that event all season and at state,” Cook said. “We lowered the school record like three times this year. I’m really proud of that one.”
The trio of seniors and Jennings attempted to capture the program’s third state medal in the 400 free relay, but a questionable disqualification by IHSAA officials due to the team’s second swimmer leaving the blocks too early, wiped away the Cougars’ fourth-place finish.
Greenfield-Central completed the relay in 3:07.32 which bested both Chesterton (3:07.54) and Munster (3:07.74), and trailed third-place Bloomington South (3:06.15).
“Absolutely we’re disappointed, especially, again, because they put so much heart into it and actually moved up. It was just a fantastic swim, but it’s one of those things that unfortunately happens in our sport,” Logan said.
The relay team entered the championship finals as the fifth seed after recording a 3:07.92 during the preliminaries and improved on their time despite it being the last event after a grueling second day.
“It’s pretty disappointing, but you can’t argue a call in high school, so you just kind of live with it,” said Cook, who was also ninth in the 100 backstroke with a time of 50.61.
Senior Ben Rader, a University of Indianapolis recruit, placed ninth in the 1-meter diving competition, overcoming a slow start to finish one spot away from winning a state medal.
Rader amassed 437.65 points to finish in the top 10.
“I was missing on a couple of my first few dives, but I was focusing on having fun. I was just praying, saying, ‘I trust you God,’” Rader said. “I was able to come back, so I’m happy with it. I’m really happy with it. It was kind of a test of my faith that I trust.”
Rader narrowly made the first and second round cuts to reach the finals where he scored a 60.45 on his final dive of his high school career.
“He had a rough morning, missed a couple of dives he usually is pretty solid on. He just sneaked in the first cut of 20 at 20th. Then, after three more dives, he was 15 of 16, so he started making his move,” Cougars’ diving coach Duane Knecht said. “Those last couple of dives he was phenomenal.”
Cook used the same word to describe the past few years at the conclusion on Saturday.
“We’ve been together since middle school on the team, and we’re best friends. This is really a family and having a communal goal like that for four to six years, I’m really proud that we could come together and accomplish our goals and end this way,” Cook said. “In this state, a top 10 finish, it’s a huge accomplishment.”