By Owen V. Johnson
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, February 5. SWIMMING in the shadow of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, defending Indiana state girls swimming champion Carmel won its 22nd straight sectional crown over the weekend as it prepares to battle for its 21st straight state title in Indianapolis, Feb. 9-10. The Greyhounds won 10 of the 11 swimming events and qualified 13 team members for the state championships. Senior Alex Young was the only double individual winner, capturing the title in the butterfly and the 500-yard freestyle.
North Central, tied for fifth in the state rankings, took second in the sectional, led by sophomore Lauren Massey, who won the 100 free and also qualified in the 50 free. The Panthers will send six individual entrants and three relay teams to state.
Hamilton Southeastern, which finished 86 points behind Carmel in the final state rankings, also won 10 swimming events and easily won the sectional it hosted and qualified nine individuals and all three relay teams for state. Freshman Aubrey Hertzler and junior Lindsay Rogers were double winners. Hertzler went 57.18 in the back. Kelsi Hall clocked 23.03 for Yorktown to win the 50 free.
Perennial power Columbus North, meanwhile, powered to its state record 28th sectional title. The Bullfrogs won 10 swimming events, including two individual wins each by Laura Heckroth and Kelsea Cross. Seymour's Stephanie Reichelt won the butterfly to prevent a clean sweep by Columbus North. Reichelt also was a part of the Owls' medley relay team that broke a school record and qualified for state.
Center Grove won the championship at Indian Creek Natatorium. The Trojans' Melody White won the 200 and 500 free events, while junior phenom Michelle McKeehan won both the breaststroke and the IM.
Bloomington South won its first sectional in nearly 10 years by copping the championship in its own pool. The Panthers broke two school records, including the breaststroke mark that had stood since 1978. Junior Ellie Richardson won both the 50 free and the backstroke.
Elizabeth Munroe won two events for Bloomington North. But that's not what she'll remember about the meet. She was stretching in her warm-ups before the meet when a Terre Haute fan tripped on the stairs, crashed into Munroe and sent them both into the pool. Munroe, like many swimmers a qualified lifeguard, righted the somewhat embarrassed woman and calmed her down.
Munroe went on to win two titles and set a school record in the 500 free. Her Cougar teammates rallied to take second.
The closest result came at Jasper where the hosts won the 400-freestyle relay to win the championship by 5 points over Floyd Central, which finished second. Two Jasper swimmers, Kayla Sergesketter and Marie Gramelspacher, each won two events.
The second closest title chase came at Noblesville as a payback. The host Millers outscored Westfield for their seventh straight title, after having been beaten by the Shamrocks in a dual meet in December. The meet turned on a 1-2 Noblesville finish in the backstroke, won by freshman Audrey Welklin. Kokomo's Katie Hingst was a double winner, taking the 200 and the 500 and, as was Western's Kait Flederbach who won the 50 and 100 freestyle events.
The most balanced sectional was at Lafayette Jefferson. The host Bronchos won with 216 points, but four other teams were within 60 points of the title. Jenny Connolly of West Lafayette Harrison turned in the best performances, setting a meet record in the backstroke and just missing one in the butterfly. She's the defending state champ in the back and was runner-up last year in the fly.
"I'm not shaved or tapered but the atmosphere of this meet gets me up and going," she told the Lafayette Journal & Courier.
Seven records were set at the sectional at Mishawaka High School, six of them by freshmen. At the top of the list was Nikki Hubbard of Penn who took the fly in 56.43 and the breaststroke, where her record came in prelims at 1:05.92. The alliterative Betsy Bowen of Bremen set marks and won victories in the 50 and 100 free. Penn won the meet.
Evansville Reitz freshman Sara Decker captured the 200 and 500 yard freestyle titles at the Mt. Vernon sectionals, but every other swimming event went to host Wildcats. Jessica Reinitz won the butterfly and the 50 free, while fellow senior Dane Threlkeld claimed the IM and backstroke championships.
Fort Wayne Carroll won its first ever sectional title in that city's sectional, using depth to beat five-time defending champion Fort Wayne Snider. The Chargers are not a storied team. They taper for sectionals, but it all came together Saturday to provide a victory plunge in the pool. Snider will be the stronger presence at state, however, with the Panthers winning six events, including two relays. Senior Stephanie Parker won the IM and the breaststroke, while freshman Amalia Kobelja breezed in the fly and backstroke events.
Chesterton scored an easy eighth straight win in the sectional it hosted. The Trojans, led by senior Talor Whitaker, captured eight titles, including all three relays. Whitaker was in on half those titles, with individual wins in the 100 and 200 free.
Northridge dominated the sectional at Concord, qualifying three swimmers and two relay teams for state. Elizabeth Spilman paced the Raiders with wins in the 200 free and the breaststroke. A 1-2-3 sweep in the IM highlighted the day for Northridge.
Montgomery County teams won 10 of the 11 swimming events at the Crawfordsville sectional, led by the host Athenians' victories in five individual events and two relays. Freshmen Missy Robinson and Rebecca Howland each won two individual events for Crawfordsville, while Southmont sophomore Hilary Mishler also qualified for state in the backstroke and 200 free.
Depth propelled Munster to a come-from behind 11th straight sectional victory at Crown Point. The Seahorses finished 48 points ahead of the hosts.
Warsaw used victories in all three relays to help the Tigers take their own sectional ahead of Culver Girls Academy. Tracy Thalmer won the 200 and the 500 for Warsaw.
Richmond three-peated at the New Palestine sectional, edging the host Dragons 326-285. Megan Wesler led the way for the Red Devils, with wins in the breaststroke and the IM. Chantelle van der Merwe can thank her doctor for her victory in the freestyle, where she set a sectional record. The win came only ten weeks after surgery and seven weeks after she got back in the water.
Roncalli won its third straight sectional at Indianapolis Ben Davis and qualified all three relay teams for state. Tara Colwell is on two of the teams and also won the fly and 500 free events. At Homestead, the hosts scored the most lopsided sectional victory, tallying 446 points to 197 for runnerup Huntington North. The second biggest margin was at Zionsville where the hosts nearly doubled up Avon, 384-193. The Eagles' Ariellle Coy and Katie Lee each won two events and helped a relay sweep.
At the Fort Wayne sectional, a Fort Wayne Dwenger swimmer competing in the final preliminary heat of the butterfly came "under duress". Her coach and lifeguards pulled her from the pool unconscious. She was later reported breathing on her own, in serious but stable condition.