By Jake Thompson and Justin Whitaker
— Hendricks County boys’ swimming and diving teams head back to the pool this week. Teams are in different shapes heading into the 2012 seasons with some rebuilding and some reloading, but whatever the case may be, every squad is looking to improve.
With low numbers this season, the Cascade Cadets are counting on quality and not quantity to be successful. The Cadets currently have 13 swimmers, but Cascade coach Paul Williams has faith in his team’s abilities.
“We really believe that we have 13 quality swimmers and that will make this team a lot better in the water than they will appear on paper,” Williams said. “Our kids work extremely hard to make up (for) the smaller numbers but they also understand that if this were an easy sport that everyone would be a swimmer, so they kind of wear that as a badge of honor.”
Strong leadership will be key with such few numbers and Williams believes he has the right athletes for the job.
“Seniors Jesse Gilmore, Kyle Trent, Brian McConnell, and Drake Whicker each bring their own unique brand of leadership,” Williams said. “They are a great group of young men and they truly are the heart and soul of this team.
“Junior Cole Dugan has already began the process of taking a leadership role with this team and we expect Cole to continue to develop as a leader and swimmer as the season progresses.”
Gilmore took second in the West Central Conference meet last year in the 200 free and Dugan won the 500 free.
Although the numbers are down for the Cadets, the expectations are still high.
“Our team goal is to win the West Central Conference meet win the Clinton Central Invitational and produce 10 wins on the season,” Williams said. “In addition, we want to have four swimmers on the podium at the county meet and at least five swimmers in the finals at the sectionals.”
Returning for Cascade this season is diver Kyle Trent, who set a school record last year for six dives and performed well in the postseason.
Aiding the returning swimmers is a pair of sophomores. Jason Franchville and Alex VanWinkle could each have big impacts.
“We’re excited about the way Franchville trained in the off season ... and are looking for him to make a big difference in our relays and in our sprint group,” Williams said. “VanWinkle is another that we think will have a great season. He has consistently improved over the summer and we will be looking to him to provide the team with solid performances.”
Overall, how the Cadets blend together and improve over the course of the year will determine Cascade’s final outcome.
“Our season success will really depend on how well our new swimmers adapt to swimming at a highly competitive level,” Williams said. “So far they have impressed coach Cozart and I with the work ethic and energy that they bring to practice every day.”
Plainfield finished second at county and in the Mid-State Conference last season while placing third at sectional. The Quakers hope to achieve better performances this season, but Plainfield coach Chris Cavanaugh keeps it pretty simple with his expectations heading into the year.
“Our goals for the season are to train hard, have fun, support each other, and to try and reach our potential,” he said. “We really want to learn how to train hard and have fun this year.”
Seniors Chris Tice and Nick Allen make up one half of last season’s school record breaking 200-medley relay team. The type of experience the pair returns with should help the Quakers this season.
“Both have state meet experience and they will both set the pace for us,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh also pointed to junior Dakota Rhodes as a swimmer who should also “be scoring points for us.”
Also looking to contribute to Plainfield’s efforts this season are freshmen Daniel Mongell, Christian States, Noah Grider, and Max Bridge.
“(They) will all need to step up if we are going to be successful this year,” Cavanaugh said.
With a less than normal turnout for the Quakers, Cavanaugh believes this season may be weighed on a different type of scale.
“We have a very small team, so our successes may not come in wins or losses,” he said. “We will be measuring many of our successes against ourselves and our own effort.”
Both Tice and Allen, along with fellow senior Trent Brink, will help Cavanaugh provide the underclassmen with the right atmosphere to learn and build from.
“All three are expected to be leaders on the deck, in the pool, and in the classroom,” Cavanaugh said. “Another junior for us is Luke Bridge and he too will stepping in to help out the younger guys.”
If the Avon swimming and diving team continues to improve after last season’s successes — county and sectional championships — then the Orioles should be in pretty good shape come the end of the season.
“Our team goal is to have 100 percent best times by the end of the year,” Avon coach Jon Karr said. “If this group can achieve that, we will establish ourselves as one of the premium programs in the county, conference, and sectional as well as finish well at the state meet.”
Avon returns several state qualifiers from last season including Parks Jones, Grant Lewis, Christian Lorenz, Quinn McPhail, Greg Sprout, and Matt Stowe. Colin Mothersead also returns with a bit more extensive experience, having scored in the state finals.
Joined by a younger group of talented swimmers that Karr believes will bolster Avon’s depth, the Orioles could be well on their way to a great season. Karr pointed to Gabe Caldwell, Westin Fink, Garrett Hammons, Vishaal Mali, Gus Moore, Grant Sprout, and Ray Wang as a group of swimmers that could have a breakout year for the Orioles.
Avon will have to come together as a team and gel if they want to achieve more than they accomplished last season.
“The success of the team will depend on the commitment of each athlete to the team,” Karr said. “If the boys put the team above themselves they will be really successful. Individual performances will come when the team is the reason to step up and swim.”
A strong group of seniors are helping the Orioles build the type of team chemistry Karr has high hopes for.
“Our returning seniors are Colin Mothersead, Quinn McPhail, Jared Miller, Wally Wang, and Matt Stowe,” Karr said. “They have already contributed to the culture of our team in a positive way and I look forward to working with them in creating an environment that does not accept anything but success.”
While the Tri-West boys’ swimming team is smaller in terms of numbers, it isn’t representative of the team’s efforts.
Coach Jeff Sankey has 10 boys on 2012’s team with eight of those returning from last season. The 2011 team finished with an overall dual meet record of 11-6 and Sankey said all of those were close.
“It seemed that last season we either won a meet by two or three points or we ended up losing by the same margin,” he said. “With a team as small as this, every race counts and every meet could be decided by one fantastic individual performance.”
Those expecting to be main contributors for the Bruins are seniors Garhett Cook, Robbie Brandkamp, and Braden Jones and junior Ryan Richard.
“(They) will be the foundation of the team, as they bring the most experience to the group,” Sankey said.
The fourth senior on the team is newcomer Jake England.
Returning eight of 10 boys on the roster should bode well for Tri-West with last season’s experience under their belts.
“Overall, we are a much older team than this time last year, and it is made of a strong nucleus of hard-working, dedicated swimmers ready to step up,” Sankey said.
Sankey said he thinks the only weakness this team has is the lack of numbers on the team and believes it will be tough to compete as a team in meets like county, conference, and sectionals.
Danville boys’ swimming coach Leah Miller believes that she has a couple ringers to rely upon in her first season as coach.
Top returning swimmers include Matt Neilsen (middle distance and fly), Grant Callahan (breaststroke, distance, and middle distance) and Zach Saito (backstroke).
Miller thinks the Warriors can perform well in county, conference, and sectionals.
“I believe quite a few of my boys will place high in all of our big swim meets,” she said.
Miller will also be counting on newcomers Joel Richardson and Isaiah Bolton to perform this season as well.
The Warriors are a fairly youthful team and this year’s experience should help for the future.
“We are a younger team, with only a couple of seniors so I’m excited to begin building upon this year’s performances,” Miller said.
Miller swam at Avon High School and Butler University and started coaching as an assistant for a club team before taking over for Danville.
Her expectations are simple this season.
“I’m expecting my boys to swim fast and improve upon previous times,” she said.
Brownsburg boys’ swimming and diving coach Josh Saylor knows where his Bulldogs have resided in county, conference, and sectionals and is ready to improve on those performances.
After finishing third in county and in the bottom half of the Hoosier Crossroads Conference in 2011, Brownsburg will look to challenge each in ‘12.
“We know Avon and Plainfield have strong squads returning but we believe we’ve improved,” Saylor said. “We want to be in the hunt for the county championship and then parlay that success to an improved performance at conference. The Hoosier Crossroads Conference is arguably the best in the state and we’ve finished in the bottom half for too many years. We have a major goal of finishing in the top five this year, which should set us up for a successful state tournament.”
The Bulldogs share a sectional with the always-tough squad from North Central but Saylor is hoping to advance some swimmers out of the sectional.
“We now face North Central at sectionals and they’re a legitimate powerhouse,” he said. “But we’ve seen them once and can now set a goal of moving closer to their level with a short term goal of winning at least one event at sectionals and qualifying multiple swimmers for the state meet.”
Senior diver Grason Horvath just missed qualifying for regional action last year and looks to lead the Bulldog divers.
Juniors Grant Anspach (100, 200 freestyle), Bradley Green (100 butterfly), and Donnie Spencer are Saylor’s other big contributors.
“Grant and Bradley are returning sectional finalists and Donnie is a clutch swimmer, winning a swim-off for 16th place in the 50 freestyle at sectionals last year,” he said. “Strong leadership from this group too, as Grant and Donnie are captains.”
Sophomores Joe Ancel (200 IM, 100 breast), Kyle Baney (200 IM), and Diego La Torre (50, 100 freestyle) are all returning sectional finalists as freshman and look to lead a sophomore class that Saylor expects “could carry this team for several years to come.”
Freshmen Joe Myhre and Vince Partlow will look to contribute right away, as Myhre was the state champion in the summer 100 freestyle in his age group.