By Matt Anderson
— The Ben Davis swim teams look to have more success this season as the girls are rebuilding, but the boys’ squad is poised for something a bit bigger.
The Ben Davis girls’ swimming team endured a rebuilding year in 2011 and the Giants might have to withstand another as wins were hard to come by last year. Ben Davis won a dual meet between Cardinal Ritter and International and then defeated International again in another dual, but that was the extent of Ben Davis’ victories.
One bright spot for the Giants was senior diver Ankita Sutaria who won her sectional, reached state for the third consecutive year, and placed 23rd.
But with her graduating, the Giants are back to square one. With some moderate improvement by the roster returnees this offseason, newcomers from freshmen and upperclassmen alike will be needed to fill out some of the much-needed depth on the roster.
“We don’t have what I would call our higher caliber swimmers coming in,” Ben Davis coach George Fastrich said. “An interesting thing with this year’s team is we have a handful of girls that have swam in middle school but did not swim in high school, freshman or sophomore years.”
Fastrich will attempt to play to the girls’ strengths, but with the lack of depth many of the his top girls will have to swim in multiple races. Until some of the newcomers can gain some experience, it could be a very tough start to the 2012 season.
“They’ll be diverse this season as far as what they’re swimming,” he said. “I won’t have them specialized in one area. The only time I do that is for the county, conference, and sectional meets.”
Freshman Maddie Cook will look to fill the gap left by Sutaria’s departure. Another freshman waiting to make an impact is swimmer Nicole Zellers.
“She’s going to be pretty good,” Fastrich said of Zellers. “She’s just in that growing phase and after she gets a year underneath her belt for high school, she’s going to see a lot of improvement.”
The two will join top senior swimmers Maddie Holmes, Katie McKain, and Morgan Stovall. Another of Ben Davis’ top swimmers from last season, Alex Hodson, moved and won’t be with the Giants this year.
“With the group that we have, we do have a lot of newer swimmers,” Fastrich said. “It’s probably going to be another three years before we get some state-potential athletes.”
Expectations won’t be too high and improvement will be the main focus. While the first half of the season will see some growing pains, Fastrich hopes the girls can at least improve and shed some seconds off their times.
“When we start county and sectional time, I think with the strong girls we have, we’ll start seeing a lot of improvement from them,” Fastrich said.
Ben Davis starts the season Nov. 15 at home against Southport.
The Ben Davis boys’ swimming team had depth last year and the Giants have it again this season. The difference will be experience, and the boys have their sights on something they haven’t done since coach George Fastrich came to Ben Davis in 2006.
“We’re looking to get out of sectional for the first time in a while,” Fastrich said. “I’m expecting to get a couple to go to state ... a relay or two hopefully as well.”
Last season the boys claimed victories over 10 teams and finished 10th at the Marion County meet, eighth at MIC, and fourth in the sectional. Seven seniors graduated, but a number of the Giants’ top swimmers return.
“I think we graduated some really good seniors, but I think the best thing about last season is with our depth that we did have, as far as our freestyle events were concerned, that we still sort of have people that will be able to step up and most likely swim faster than they swam,” Fastrich said.
Cevan Hawkins reached the diving regionals as a freshman last year, finishing ninth. He’ll return along with notable swimmers Jevon Robinson, Cameron Peck, and Tyler Gibson, who showed a lot of improvement last year.
“I think with our 400 free relay, 200 free relay, and our 200 medley relay we’ll see a lot of time drops this season with them definitely,” Fastrich said.
Fastrich also brings in freshman Jose Villagomez. He was one of his club swimmers and one who Fastrich helped trained in all strokes.
“He’ll add to the depth,” he said. “We’re pretty solid in all four classes.”
Jess Partin also returns. Last year he was a part of the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay and individually swam the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke at the sectional meet.
“I know Jess has a really good shot,” Fastrich said about possible state qualifiers. “He had a really good training session this summer, and he’s already dropped three seconds coming into the season from his fastest time last year that he swam at sectionals.”
Another is junior Cole Crouch, who was arguably the team’s best swimmer last year. He was also the first swimmer of Fastrich’s tenure to make a trip to state.
Crouch, in the 50 freestyle, placed third in sectional and 15th at state by swimming a 21.69 in his final race. He’ll look to repeat the appearance and hopefully be joined by a couple of his fellow teammates come the end of the year.
“I think Cole has a really good shot at going to state in the 50 and 100,” Fastrich said.
The boys just started practicing a week into November. Their season kicks off Nov. 27 at Lawrence North.
“It’s going to be interesting this season,” Fastrich said. “Some of those freshmen boys have grown up. It’s kind of nice to see. I’m looking forward to an exciting season.”