By Owen V. Johnson
The crowd at the finals of the 33rd annual Indiana girls state high school swimming and diving championships rose as one with cheering and applause. But it wasn't for Carmel High School, which won its 21st straight title, the longest current winning streak in any high school sport, boys or girls.
Instead it was for Center Grove junior Michelle McKeehan, who broke the national high school 200-yard individual medley record, going 1:58.06 to erase the mark of 1:58.28, set a week ago by Mary Beck of Austin (Tex.) Westlake High School. Only five Division I NCAA swimmers have gone faster so far this year.
McKeehan broke the two-minute barrier and the state record Friday night with a 1:59.61 clocking.
"I was just hoping to go faster than last night," McKeehan told reporters. "I was shooting for a low 59, but I had no idea I would break 59. I knew it was good, because everything was perfect in the water."
McKeehan also set a state record in winning the breaststroke, going 1:00.23.
It marked the third straight year she had won the two state titles, matching a record held by two others, including Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Benko Mintenko, who prepped at Elkhart Central, and Anderson's Debbie Daniel.
McKeehan's finish helped her Trojan teammates get sixth place. Center Grove coach Jim Todd was selected by his peers as coach of the year.
Carmel won the team crown, its first under rookie coach Chris Plumb, who swam collegiately at Indiana, with depth. The Greyhounds failed to win a single individual or relay title, but took second in each relay. They entered 13 individual swimmers, more than any other team.
"Depth is what we're all about," Plumb said. "For me, it's a great feeling to continue the tradition. But it's more for the team than it is for me."
Hamilton Southeastern swept the relays. The team of Maegan O'Connor, Christina Jacobs, Lindsay Rogers and Carly Mercer set a state mark of 1:44.70 in the medley relay, breaking their two-year old mark. All four swimmers return next season.
The Royals won the 200-freestyle relay in 1:35.63 and the 400-free relay in 3:29.12. That 400-free relay team was composed of three freshmen and sophomore Erin Kelley.
As a team, HSE amassed 280.5 points to finish runner-up to Carmel's 335. Columbus North came third.
Chesterton's eighth-place finish was Talor made. Senior Talor Whitaker notched two gold medals, winning the 200-yard freestyle in 1:51.10 and the 100 free in 51.53.
The day's final double winner was Jenny Connolly of Harrison High School of West Lafayette. She claimed the butterfly in 55.73 and the backstroke in 55.47.
Kelsi Hall of Yorktown repeated as champion in the 50-yard freestyle, but this time she didn't have to share the award with Ariel Martin of Jeffersonville. Last year, the two tied in the championship. This year, Hall zipped to a 22.92, more than half a second ahead of the second-place Martin.
Senior Jessica Skiba of Homestead won the 500, just breaking the 5-minute barrier to finish at 4:59.86. Audra Egenolf, a senior from Heritage Christian, won the diving championship with 445.20 points.
The IHSAA Executive Committee selected Kayla Sergesketter of Jasper the winner of the Mental Attitude Award in girls swimming and diving. The award goes to a senior, nominated by her coach, who demonstrates excellence in "mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability."
The Kentucky-bound Sergesketter was runner-up in the 200 free and fourth in the 100 in Saturday's state finals. Holder of a 3.99 GPA, she is the second Jasper swimmer to win the award. Tricia Berger won it for the 1986 season, which was then swum in the fall.
The Indiana high school boys start their state series this weekend with sectional meets at 20 sites.