Celebrating Three Historic Indiana High School Girls Swimming Programs

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Celebrating Three Historic Indiana High School Girls Swimming Programs

In the second of a two-article series, the rich tradition of Indiana high school swimming is examined. We end with the girls’ programs, with the boys’ programs being covered in Part I.

With the 2021 Indiana High School Athletic Association girls high school season officially underway, it’s perfect timing to examine the most historic girls swim programs in the state of Indiana. The list includes some big name schools which have turned into national powerhouses, and some schools less heard of who have made a mark on the state.

Indiana?

As mentioned in Part I, many people associate the state of Indiana with sports other than swimming. Looking a little deeper shows that Indiana produces some of the best swimmers that compete on the world and national stage, with five swimmers who have connections to Indiana high school swimming competing at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Carmel

When Girls Swimming officially became an Indiana high school sport in 1974, it took 12 seasons for Carmel to bring home its first state championship title. The Greyhounds have not looked back since. 

The Carmel girls have racked up a state and national record 35 consecutive (1987-2021) state titles, plus seven SwimmingWorld national high school team titles (2011, 2013-2017, 2021). Even more impressive to this record is the fact that five different coaches have helped bring state titles to Carmel.

Hired in 2006 to coach both the boys and girls teams, Chris Plumb has enjoyed major success at Carmel. Since his hiring, Plumb has brought home a combined 25 state titles. Although Carmel has never had a girl swimmer qualify for the Olympic Games, Plumb has had multiple swimmers come close. Most recently, former Greyhound swimmer Kelly Pash swam in the finals of the 200 butterfly at the 2020 USA Swimming Olympic Trials, placing fifth.

Elkhart Central

Northern Indiana is home to some of the most dominant high school swimmers in the state, and with elite high school swimmers, there comes dominant high school teams. Two of the three men’s teams mentioned in Part I came from Northern Indiana, but there is also a girls program in this part of the state that has been superb. 

Elkhart Central High School, located in Elkhart, Indiana, won 20 sectional championships, and brought home the state runnerup trophy six times. The peak of Elkhart Central’s dominance was seen under former head coach Karen Leeth. During her 26-year tenure at Central, she racked up 366 wins against 27 losses and one tie. During her run, her team had a 234-meet winning streak, which at the time was a national record. 

It can be argued that the most impressive feat is the fact that the Elkhart Central girls came within striking distance of beating Carmel at the state meet. Going into the 1992 championship meet, Elkhart Central was led by future Olympian Lindsey Benko and believed to have a chance at defeating Carmel. After a hard-fought meet, Carmel prevailed, 190-184. Since then, no one has come close to taking down Carmel. 

Although Elkhart Central is no longer an IHSSA competing school as it merged with Elkhart Memorial in 2020 to become Elkhart High School, the name Elkhart Central still holds a powerful name in the state of Indiana.

North Central (Indianapolis)

Located in the capital of Indiana, North Central Indianapolis has produced some top-tier girls swim teams in recent history. With 19 sectional titles, 30 top-10 state finishes and six state runnerup efforts, there is no doubt how dominant North Central has been.

Some of North Central’s top performances came under former head coach Mark Hesse. From 2000-2004, North Central took home five state runnerup trophies, and had 12 individual and relay state champions during that time. Only Carmel was better.

Additionally, during the Hesse era at North Central, swimmers Susan Hentschel, Elizabeth Christy and Christine Shehorn were added to the state record book, when they won nine, six and five individual and relay state titles, respectively. Since Hesse left North Central in 2005, the program has continued to flourish, evident in a sectional-titles streak that stretches to 2007.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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