HANCOCK COUNTY — There is quite a mix of established veterans, youngsters ready to make their mark and newcomers looking to get some attention, too.
Hancock County girls and boys swimming teams have quite an assortment of talent on display as they embark on the journey of the 2021-22 season.
Greenfield-Central and New Palestine girls teams got underway last week, while most others began competitions earlier this week.
Here’s a look at the teams that will gather in New Palestine at the end of the regular season with hopes and dreams of making it to the IUPUI Natatorium for the state finals.
The Cougars won their eighth straight sectional last season and were runner-up in the Hoosier Heritage Conference to Pendleton Heights. The Cougars and Arabians have shared the last eight HHC titles with four apiece.
Coach Emily Logan has many of those talented and experienced swimmers returning this season.
Junior Norah Johnson heads a strong Cougar contingent. She finished 13th in the state in last year’s 100-yard breaststroke and was a sectional champion in four events.
Classmate Mary Ellen Stratman was a three-time winner in the sectional round and has joined Johnson at the state meet in each of her first two high school seasons.
Seniors Ariel Niemeier and Ellei Coleman are state preliminary vets along with junior Reagan Crouch and sophomore Cecelia Duffy-Johnson.
“All of them went to state last year in either relays or individual events or both,” Logan said. “We add in one of the strongest freshman classes I’ve seen in a long time.”
Logan’s key frosh newcomers include Rachel Stutz, Alyssa Osborn and Taylor Parsons.
“This is a very strong, very deep team,” Logan said. “Overall, it could be one of the most talented teams that we’ve had.”
The Dragons have a new head coach for their girls and boys programs.
After being an assistant for three years, Chris Kingery takes over for Jason Tillage, who moved out of state.
Kingery inherits a strong, but still very young team.
Sarah Kleiman, who won the 100 breaststroke in the team’s initial meet, is the lone senior.
Sophomore Adrianna Huston has picked up right where she left off during her rookie season.
A third-place finisher in the 200-yard freestyle in both the conference and sectional meets, as a freshman, Huston was part of four wins in the season opener, taking the top spot in the 200-yard freestyle, 500-yard freestyle and two relays.
Classmate Sullie Leavell, who won the 200-yard IM opener, is another strong, experienced, but still very young swimmer.
Juniors Katelyne Trimpe and Kyleigh Turner return as key components along with Chloe Siler. All, along with Huston and Leavell, should team up for some strong relay groups.
Kingery has a solid diving team, too, with returning junior Alayna Walker and sophomores Izzy Napier and Anne Bauer.
“They’re doing a great job, all of them,” Kingery said of his team’s early-season competitions.
The Marauders have a nice mix of veterans and newcomers.
Ila Boston is the most veteran of a senior group that includes first-timers Claire Jaques and Emma Hercher.
While they will have impact on this year’s success, much of coach Brad Grieshop’s top swims could come from freshmen and sophomores.
Annelise Hiner, Madelyn Meyer and Emme Grubbs are all sophomores and Ava Crouch, a junior, were all multiple scorers in last year’s sectional and conference competitions.
The Marauders also welcome a talented freshman class that includes Alex Biggs, Calista Smith, Macie Murphy and Ella Sinn.
Smith has already made an impression in the team’s opening meet at Richmond, coming from behind to earn victories in multiple relay races and the 200 IM. She also won the 100 breaststroke.
“Several are making an impact, as we thought they would,” Grieshop said of his freshman class. “They’re definitely going to help our depth as a team this year.”
Olivia Pastrick is the lone senior on a Royals team that continues to grow in numbers and experience.
Juniors Cora McDaniel and Kenzie Dyer are back for a third season, plus the team gets a boost with the return of junior Mia Griesmeyer, who last swam competitively at the junior high level.
Coach Mike Dolence’s daughter, Sophia Dolence is a freshman on the team. She comes in with a strong background as a multiple-event record holder from the middle school program.
“They’re going to be leading the girls squad and trying to do great things,” coach Dolence said.
This year’s Marauder team will have a hard act to follow.
Last year’s group broke a 16-year dry spell by winning the program’s first sectional championship since 2005. It also put an end to a 10-year run by Greenfield-Central in the Hoosier Heritage Conference meet.
Grieshop’s boys group will be talented again this season, but they will certainly miss graduated star Aiden Tierney, who was state runner-up in the 100-yard breaststroke and eighth in the 100-yard butterfly.
Along with Tierney, the team graduated a strong group that included James Demircioglu, Evan Flick, Aidan Murphy and Logan Schomaker, who among the state qualifiers in relay races.
Still, the Marauders have some talent led by juniors Brady Gray and Matthew Garey, both with state meet experience, and fellow classmate Ethan Murphy.
Jack Champion, Caleb Strege and Grant Hoeppner, a diver, are the team’s only seniors.
Grieshop also believes the team will get help from a couple of freshmen, Eli Webster and Adison Mayes.
“We’ve talked about what the team did last year and the fact that we could repeat this year, as well, if we get really good swims from everyone,” Grieshop said. “Just because the seniors are gone doesn’t mean we’re going to lose now.
“It is a different team, a new team with new expectations, but we still have the same goals of winning a conference meet, winning a sectional meet, getting kids to state. That hasn’t changed. It’s just how we go about doing it with a new team.”
Along with a new coach, the Dragons have a mostly-new team.
Nearly one-half of the Dragons 22 swimmers and divers are freshmen.
“They won conference last year (at the junior high level) and come in with a little bit of swagger and hungry to grow the program,” coach Kingery said.
Kingery will rely on some experience, too, with a trio of seniors, Quincy Shirk, Eli Kleine and Ben Miesse. All were consistent scorers in dual and bigger meets.
Chase Martin is back as the team’s lone junior and Liam Fuller and Aidan Kingery are sophomores that gained knowledge during last season.
Freshmen Aidan Stephens and Dax Gibson will be immediate keys to the diving unit.
The Royals have numbers and experience.
Seniors Matthew McDaniel, Luken Edwards and Ryan Dagley junior Joey Blocher and sophomore Kyle Messer lead a team that is one of the largest Eastern Hancock has had in a long time.
“It’s a whole another level now,” coach Dolence said of having 13 members on this year’s squad. “Usually we come in as the small school that has a couple relays. For the boys, I’ll have full lineups. I’m really excited about what we have potential to do.”
Dolence said the veteran team, which includes seven seniors, has shown great leadership to its younger swimmers, many that are brand new to competitive swimming.
“The senior leadership, especially, on the boys side, it’s been great to watch the younger kids look up to them and try to chase them down in practice,” coach Dolence said.
The Cougars have been the county’s most successful program.
They had won 10 straight sectional and conference titles prior to Mt. Vernon taking the crowns in 2021.
Graduation took away highly-decorated, state-placing sprinter Travis Black and state-meet regulars Sam Logan and Anthony Nagel among others.
Coach Mark Logan will have a much different looking team this season.
The Cougars have 12 swimmers and will lack the experience they have relied on in the past.
Senior Derek Noah and juniors Tyler Swango and Jaeden Peters will lead the way. Peters placed second in last year’s sectional 500-yard freestyle race.
The diving group should be strong with senior Kien Dalton, junior Alex Jahrsdoerfer and freshman Collin Dalton. The elder Dalton was a state qualifier as a sophomore.
“It’s definitely going to be a different year and experience for us,” Mark Logan said. “It’s going to be more about the individual than the team. We just don’t have the numbers and the quality. We still have the intensity in practice and they are bringing the energy to the meets.”