WHAT: Hoosier Heritage Conference Swim Championship
WHERE: New Palestine High School
WHEN: Saturday, 11 a.m.
DEFENDING CHAMPIONS: Greenfield-Central boys, Yorktown girls
The Cougars have become Hancock County’s version of the University of Alabama football team, replenishing their talent base each season while keeping their championship streak alive. Two years ago, G-C won its first-ever HHC meet by 54.5 points, claiming first in just a single event.
Last January, the blue and gold prevailed by 186 points, capturing seven events and placing a Cougar in the top three of all but one race.
Entering Saturday, the reigning champs are seeded first in seven of the 12 events, with those top spots spread among the three relay races and three individual swimmers.
With 2012 state qualifiers Jon McCormick, Austin Wilburn and James Young having graduated, four seniors (Josh Cummins, Patrick Stutz, Cody Wilburn, Bailey Willoughby) as well as two talented juniors (Nathan Graber, Drew Logan) have continued G-C’s assembly line of pool sharks.
Logan and Stutz are seeded first in four events (individual or relays), while Wilburn and Willoughby are the top seeds in three.
Despite its front-runner status, first-year coach Mark Logan has found ways to motivate his squad.
“We talk a lot about complacency and good being the enemy of great. So, we are constantly looking for ways to define this season as a great season,” said Logan, whose squad is ranked No. 24 by the Indiana High School Swim Coaches Association. “The seniors are setting the expectations higher for the following year. If we continue to keep that focus great things will happen.”
For Emily Logan’s girls squad, it will rely on Carly Fernandes and Taylor Johnson. Fernandes is the defending champion in the 500 freestyle, and is also seeded first in the 200 individual medley with a time nearly six seconds better than No. 2 seed Madison Korders of Pendleton Heights. Johnson is the top seed in the 100 butterfly.
OUTLOOK: Mt. Vernon
In search of its first HHC crown since 2010, the Mt. Vernon girls do not have a single swimmer, diver or relay seeded first. The Marauders only have one swimmer, Gloria Gonzales in the 100 freestyle, seeded second.
Those facts are of little consequence to Tom Shaver, whose team figures to compete for the title along with New Palestine and Yorktown.
“We’re relying on all three swimmers to score in each event. Our girls team has pretty good depth,” said Shaver, the coach of the girls and boys teams. “While we don’t have any No. 1 seeds and only one No. 2 seed going into the meet, we have more girls seeded in the top eight than any other team. We can win conference without any individual first places.”
Laura Cochran, Jessica Blackburn, Eve and Gloria Gonzales, Jessica Hantz, Emily McKinney, Haley Moore, Maddie Powell and Olivia Shannon are among the Marauders who will contribute major points Saturday.
On the boys side, freshman Dixon Tierney is the favorite in 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.
Tierney enrolled in MV’s summer swim camp in grade school, and immediately made a connection a with the varsity swimmers working the camp. During the season, Tierney periodically practiced with the high school team — some Marauders had trouble keeping up with him then — and the future school record-breaker is even included the 2007-08 Mt. Vernon team photo.
“I knew he’d break some of our high school records while swimming for Mt. Vernon, but after seeing how he’s responding to my training model, I’ve moved the timeline for these record-breaking swims ahead,” said Shaver of Tierney. “In other words, these records will be broken sooner rather than later.”
OUTLOOK: New Palestine
With its smallest boys team in a decade New Palestine will have a tough time competing for a conference championship, but that hasn’t deterred one swimmer from possessing top-of-the-podium ambitions.
Grant Gish won the 100 freestyle at the HHC meet as a freshman but placed third in that event last season. The junior is seeded third this time around.
According to NP coach Steve Maxwell, Gish is also competing in the 50 freestyle in an effort to fine-tune his technique.
“He has never been a drop-dead sprinter and we’ve been working to improve his start and transition to race speed,” Maxwell said of Gish, who is seeded second in the 50 freestyle. “So the 50 is mostly a real-time test to see how well he’s taken to the changes.”
For the girls, the Dragons are in contention for the conference crown, and a top-three finish is certainly in the cards.
Emily Trimpe is the defending conference champion in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, though the senior is not competing in the former this go-around. Trimpe is seeded first in the 100 breaststroke, a little less than three seconds ahead of her younger sister, Erin.