By Owen V. Johnson
The Carmel (Ind.) High School girls swimming team starts the pursuit of its 21st consecutive state title this weekend as host to one of 20 sectional meets across the Hoosier State.
If the Greyhounds can win the state title, they'll tie the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Pine Crest team (1956-76) for the second longest girls swimming state title win streak. Honolulu Punahou holds the record with 22 straight wins. The Punahou boys team has the longest streak for a high school team in any sport, with 29 straight championships, from 1958-86.
The Carmel girls streak is the longest active streak.
Last year, both Carmel and Indianapolis North Central (third best in last year's state championships), were in the Carmel sectional. The Greyhounds are the favorites, of course, in their sectional this year.
The winners of each sectional event qualify for the state meet. The field is filled out by anyone who meets the tough state time standard in the sectional finals or consols plus the remaining fastest swimmers until the total reaches 32. Two of those additional qualifiers in any event are often from Carmel. They could qualify a maximum of 24 spots in individual events in the state meet, plus single teams in each of the relays.
This year the second toughest team in the Carmel sectional is again North Central, tied for fifth in the final state poll.
"They are loaded in every event, usually with three in each, but that doesn't mean anything for us," North Central Coach Charlie Fry told the Indianapolis Star. "We're going in there knowing we have to race for time and to challenge ourselves. If the girls hit those times, there's nothing really to worry about."
The toughest choice for Carmel coach Chris Plumb is whether to taper a particular swimmer for state or for sectionals.
Andy Pederson's Hamilton Southeastern team, second in the state rankings, could challenge Carmel. In the event state rankings, the two teams are one and two in each relay. But it's hard to know what the rankings mean since each school can send only three per event to state, yet Carmel has seven swimmers among the top 17 in the 200 IM.
Southeastern's Royal seniors will be trying to win their fourth sectional title and their 11th straight overall, after barely edging out last year's state runner-up Yorktown for the sectional title. This year, Yorktown is ranked ninth going into the sectional.
Third-ranked Center Grove should dominate the Indian Creek sectional. The Trojans feature junior Michelle McKeehan, who has won two individual state titles in each of the last two years. She has a best of 2:00.01 in the IM this year to lead the state rankings by nearly five seconds. Her 1:00.35 in the breast heads the state table by almost three seconds.
Fourth-ranked Homestead leads the field going into the sectional it hosts, as does Columbus North, tied for fifth.
At the traditional city sectional at Fort Wayne, the top two schools are Snider, ranked seventh, and Northrop, ranked 13th. The Noblesville sectional also has two closely-ranked state teams in the field with the hosts at 15th and Western at 17th. The Jasper sectional has the hosts at 10th and Jeffersonville, last year's winners, at 18th
In the southwest, the Mt. Vernon Wildcats, ranked 11th, will be favored to win their 14th title in 15 years.
At Bloomington South, the host Panthers and Terre Haute North could both put an end to Bloomington North's eight-year string of championships.