By Jake Thompson and Justin Whitaker
— County girls’ swimming and diving teams are at the edge of the pool deck and ready to kick off their seasons. Defending county and sectional champion Avon again looks to dominate the water, but other schools are also eyeing some great successes.
After winning its first sectional title in seven years, the Avon Orioles are poised for a repeat of last season. Avon also rang up its fourth consecutive county title last year, a streak they hope to continue.
But for Avon coach Jon Karr, those goals all begin simply and build toward the end of the year.
“My personal goal for this team is to always have 100 percent best times by the end of the season,” he said. “If the kids are process-oriented and come to practice ready to work hard and focused, we should be able to do that. If the girls buy into the process and compete at a high level, we should be in the mix when it comes to county, conference, and sectionals.”
Looking to help lead Avon to those goals are seniors Miranda Fay, Elizabeth Kitching, Melissa Moore, Andzelkia Rzucidlo, and Liz Wishart.
“They have already started proving themselves as positive and effective leaders,” Karr said. “It is evident that they care deeply about this team. Lauren Campbell is a junior who has done a really nice job this fall, and has really led by example.”
Fay, Kitching, Moore, and Wishart, along with Campbell and sophomore Ana Walters, were all state qualifiers from last season.
Walters set a county mark in the 200 individual medley and Wishart set the school record in the 50 free last season.
Mixing in with the core of Avon’s success this year are several underclassmen that could provide an immediate effect. Karr pointed to sophomore Emily Smith and freshmen Hallie Jones, Kira Coapstick, Colleen Fay, and Karyn Kiefer as individuals that “have all made a positive impact with our club team this fall.”
With that mix of upper and lower classmen, Karr believes there is one important factor to bring the team together.
“Our success totally depends on the team chemistry we have,” he said. “If the girls put the team’s success before their own, we will be pretty hard to beat.”
Even with the successes the Orioles had last season, Avon strives for more and Karr and the coaching staff seem up to the challenge.
“As coaches, we try to find a way to make sure the team stays hungry and doesn’t grow complacent as the wins start coming in,” Karr said. “With our sport being the way it is, we can continue to focus on success at the state meet. Even though we have continued to improve at the sectional level we know that our performance at the state meet can be much better. The girls understand that we have many more levels of performance to achieve, and they are embracing that pretty well.”
First-year Danville swimming and diving coach Leah Miller is looking to guide the Warriors to victories in 2012.
Miller swam at Avon High School and Butler University and started coaching as an assistant for a club team before taking over at Danville.
Her goals are simple this season.
“My expectations are just to get them to go fast and that they give me 100 percent every day,” Miller said.
Miller has changed practice from last season, transitioning to more of a low yardage, high intensity team compared to last year’s coach who focused more on high yardage.
“I want every one of my swimmers to swim fast,” she said. “As of right, now we are practicing a little bit different than they did last year, so we’re getting them adjusted to that, and I want them finding their speed a little bit earlier in the season.”
Expected top performers for Danville are Anna Eschbach, Sydney Kroll, Renae Schuldt, and Isabelle Mitchell.
“I have a strong core group of sprinters,” Miller said. “I know a couple of them won their events at conference last year or came close to winning them. My event winners at conference I would love for them to repeat again and my ones who were close I’d love for them to move up some spots.”
Miller also expects to count on freshman Kendall Starztman, who will swim and dive.
Eschbach and Hannah Weiss are the lone seniors for the Warriors.
Cascade looks to build upon its success of last season as the Cadets set several school records. Coach Paul Williams has the Cadets swimming in the right direction and they’re hungry for more success.
“This year our team has three distinct goals,” Williams said. “We want to win the West Central Conference title, win the Clinton Central Invitational meet, and post 10 wins during the season.”
But the Cadets’ aspirations do not stop there.
“Our goals for the county meet are to have at least five of our ladies finish in the top three and at least one county champion,” Williams said. “In addition, we have two swimmers that are eyeing sectional wins and participating in the state meet.”
Junior Tori Breeding set school records last season in the 200 and 500 freestyle. Sophomore Hayley Rosales etched her name in the Cascade record book with her performance in the 100 fly. Senior Regina Solik, Rosales and Breeding were also three-fourths of the record-setting 400 free relay team last season.
Joining that trio this season with the opportunity to contribute are Alyssa Brice and Carley Neuhausel.
“We’re really excited about how that pair has been preparing,” Williams said. “We’re looking for Alyssa to give our 200 free and 500 free events a big boost. Carley will be added to our stable of sprinters and should give us much needed depth in a variety of other events.”
Even with a variety of talented swimmers, many factors will affect the outcome of the Cadets’ season, including its youth.
“I really think our success will depend upon staying focused and staying healthy,” Williams said. “We have an extremely talented group that works hard and strives to represent themselves as a first-class swimming team, but we are also a very young team. We have seven freshmen who are adjusting to the physical and mental demands of high school swimming. So keeping everyone on the same page and moving forward will be a key factor to our success.”
Looking to help those underclassmen are seniors Solik, Katie Franklin, and Chelsea Williams.
“We put a lot of pressure on our seniors to lead because we have a lot of young swimmers and we want them to understand how important it is to properly prepare and to hold each other accountable during practice and meets.” Williams said.
Cascade’s success over the past few seasons has gained some traction and that has led to more athletes in the pool for Williams.
“Overall, this team has more depth than we’ve had in previous years,” Williams said. “Equally important is that we have three quality divers to add to that depth. This team is going to produce some exciting swim meets.”
With an additional year of experience under their belt, Brownsburg coach Josh Saylor is expecting a group he calls “young veterans” to show their growth in 2012.
“I expect our team to take a step forward this year in every way,” he said. “We’re off to a great start in practice and in terms of work ethic and team chemistry. I think the togetherness we have with our girls will propel us back to and beyond the level of performance we’ve been used to.”
The biggest returner for the Bulldogs is senior Madeline Ketchem, a team captain and two-time state meet qualifier. Saylor is also happy about versatile junior relay swimmers Grace Fulwider, Tia Scoggan, and Chloe Wittig returning as sectional finalists from last year. Sophomores Brianna LaPaugh and Kierra Watson also return after strong freshmen campaigns and a solid summer of training.
Newcomers expecting to make an impact include senior Paige Jones, an experienced youth diver; senior Kristin Verpe, a Norweigan exchange student who can swim all of the freestyle events; and freshmen Madison Kehr and Piper Lovett, who are both state-level performers in their age group.
With this team, Saylor has set achievable goals for the Bulldogs.
“Our goals are to finish top five at the Hoosier Crossroads Conference meet in January and qualify as many swimmers as possible to the IHSAA state finals,” he said. “We also have a team goal of breaking at least one school record this season after breaking none last year.”
The outlook is positive for this season of Brownsburg girls’ swimming.
“We have some outstanding veteran leadership and all of the younger swimmers have embraced the team ideal and I think we will improve dramatically over the course of the season,” Saylor said.
A talented, experienced group is helping bring in a new tide for the Tri-West Bruins in 2012.
Of coach Jeff Sankey’s 15 girls on the squad, only six of them were on the team last year. Nine of the 15 girls are freshmen.
“We’ve already lost a few key swimmers from last year due to injury, so it’s hard to tell what the season may bring in terms of meet results,” Sankey said.
The 2011 Bruins went 14-3 in dual meets, including some close losses to Danville and Lebanon. Sankey, however, is confident his freshmen will be able to step in immediately and contribute.
“Most of the freshmen girls were very successful at the middle school level last year, so I feel like we could still manage 14 to 15 wins this season,” he said.
Leading the returning Bruins is talented sophomore Madison Jones who set eight school records last season.
“She has come back stronger and faster than last year, so I expect big things out of her,” Sankey said.
Others returning for the Bruins include a core group of seniors in Lorin Dickerson, Sydney McCalley, Kaitlyn Settlemoir, and Lexi Truax.
“They’re the ones who know what it takes during practice to bring positive results once the meets begin, so I’m counting on their wealth of knowledge and leadership abilities to help guide this young team,” Sankey said.
Dickerson holds both school diving records and advanced to the regional round of diving last year. Sankey believes a trip to the state finals is possible this season.
McCalley currently holds four school records.
Plainfield finished last season with some success at the state tournament and in Mid-State Conference and the county tournament, finishing second in each of those last two events. The Quakers return to the pool with several key members intact from last season and look to build upon those successes.
“Our goal is usually the same every year; train hard, have fun, and learn to push ourselves and each other to try and reach our potential,” Plainfield coach Chris Cavanaugh said.
Following an eighth-place finish at the state tournament for her diving efforts, junior Courtney Coverdale could be in the top five or better in the state this season.
“We hope that she can improve on that finish this year,” Cavanaugh said.
Also returning is senior Anna Taber and Cavanaugh believes that she’s one of the keys to success for Plainfield’s season.
Seniors Anna Lynch and Ally Lynch will provide leadership in and out of the pool for the Quakers.
Also contributing this season for the Quakers are juniors Victoria Whicker, Lena Charles, and sophomores Victoria Dilbeck, Victoria Van deVoorde, Jena Lautenschlager and Emily Hunter.
Cavanaugh said freshman Mallory Adair “will be one of (Plainfield’s) best swimmers.”
“Our success this season will depend on attitude and effort,” Cavanaugh said. “We have to realize that our greatest competition is ourselves, every day in practice. When we learn to step up to that challenge on a daily basis, we will be successful.”