By GREG MENGELT
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
After sharing the Floyd Central Sectional championship with rivals New Albany and Seymour in 2010-11, the host Highlanders took their rightful place atop the sectional field again a year ago.
Floyd edged New Albany a year ago for the program’s fifth consecutive sectional crown.
With swimmers like Meg Taylor, who was a state finalist as a freshman a year ago in the 200 and 500 freestyle events, returning and a huge, talent freshman class incoming class, the Highlanders appear to be the favorites again.
“We’re at a point where I’ve never had this many new kids [who can swim at the varsity level],” Floyd Central coach Joe Perkins said. “We’ve always tried as many different lineups during the season so when we get to the end of the year, we can put out our best lineup to help the team win.”
In order to win its sixth straight title, Floyd figures once again to have to hold off the Bulldogs. New Albany returns one of its most successful classes in school history — led by Purdue recruit Hannah Manger — and should push the Highlanders for the crown again.
Manger, Rachel Klein and sophomore Alexis Lete — plus two or three relays — should give the Bulldogs a bunch of points at the top of the field at conference and the sectional. However, with only 12 swimmers and three divers, the question will be if the Bulldogs have enough depth to compete with Floyd.
“They’ve got a lot of kids who can win events and pick up points in bigger meets, winning first place,” Perkins said. “Over the season, we’ll be able to develop enough depth which will hopefully make the difference.”
“We look to be in the hunt to finish in the top two or three teams at conference and sectional,” New Albany coach Steve Bonifer said. “Our goal is to get as many girls through to the state meet as we can and perform well there.”
Floyd isn’t just about depth. Along with Taylor, Amy McCormick, Sarah Taylor, Maryn Meldrum, Sydney Baumann, Caroline Cato, Lauren Batliner — and perhaps a couple of freshmen, could contender for HHC and sectional titles.
“There’s the possibility they can win four or five individual events plus a couple of relays,” Perkins said of the Bulldogs. “We’ll have kids who can compete in those events, as well.”
Seymour dropped off a bit from two years ago, finishing 101 points behind the Highlanders, but Perkins believes the Owls will still be dangerous.
“I haven’t seen enough of [Seymour] to know what they have this year,” Perkins said. “But as long as [Seymour coach Dave Boggs] is around, they should compete with anyone else.”
Jeffersonville could overtake the Owls as the third team in the race for the conference and sectional titles. Along with some returning talent, led by sophomore Elizabeth Browne, the Red Devils will field a strong freshman class and a return transfer in Karlee Demsey, who Jeff coach Keith Gast thinks can be a state finalist.
Perkins said Jeff has something else it takes to become a contender.
“Their team chemistry appears to be where it needs to be to be successful,” Perkins said of the Red Devils. “Will they have the depth and overall talent to compete with us? That’s hard to say.”
“We are already better than I thought we would be this season,” Gast said. “We are looking forward to the next few weeks as we will start our dual meet competitions against HHC competition, including Seymour, New Albany and Floyd Central. All three teams beat us last year at the sectional, and if we want to improve on our fourth-place finish from last season, we have to be able to beat one or more of those teams. It will be a tough task as all three of those teams are traditionally HHC powers, but I like our chances to improve this season.”
2012 GIRLS’ SWIMMING PREVIEW
• Coach: Andy Cymbalist, 8th season at Charlestown.
• Departed Swimmers: Sara Trotter, Katie Burkhart, Katie Jenkins. All three were academic All-Americans and members of last year’s Mid-Southern Conference championship 200 free relay team.
• Returning Varsity Swimmers: Lindsey Blackwell (Sr.), Mary Hoff (Jr.), Whitney Andrews (So.).
• Varsity Newcomers: Samantha Snodgrass (Fr.), Molly Sumner (Fr.).
• Outlook: Blackwell, Hoff and Andrews could have the Pirates near the top of the Mid-Southern Conference again, although with only three experienced varsity swimmers and five total swimmers, it may be tough to expect the Pirates to win many dual meets.
• Coach Cymbalist said: “Our girls always compete for the conference title with consistently high placings at the conference meet. We will again attempt to fininsh as high in our conference as our small numbers will allow. If we don’t win conference, it won’t be from lack of effort or desire, just a lack of numbers.”
• Coach: Joe Perkins, 13th season at Floyd Central.
• Assistant Coaches: Shea Weathers (diving coach).
• Departed Swimmers: Haley Dresner (four-year state qualifier), Brittany Baird (sectional finalist), Kailey Crater.
• Returning Varsity Swimmers: Kalen Hanna (Sr., distance free and IM); Sarah Taylor (Sr., IM and backstroke); Lauren Batliner (Jr., fly and breast); Sydney Baumann (Jr., diving); Katrina Klingsmith (Jr., breast); Amy McCormick (Jr., distance free); Jessica Pinnick (Jr., IM & back); Maryn Meldrum (So., sprints and breast); Meg Taylor (So., distance free).
• Varsity Newcomers: Jessica Ingram (Fr., sprints); Alex Jamison (Fr., sprints and breast); Layah Jones (Fr., breast and distance free); Lydia Kotowski (Fr., sprints); Elizabeth Kreilein (Fr., backstroke, fly and breast); Elizabeth Mix (Fr., diving); Grace Neal (Fr., free); Baily Schneidau (Fr., free); Aniali Sivomohan (Fr., free); Annie Sung (Fr., back, breast and fly).
• Outlook: Perkins has been the Floyd Central coach for 13 years and has never had so many swimmers on one team. The Highlanders are also deep in talent. Of course, in the end, that will be a good thing. Early on, it may cause Perkins some headaches figuring out his best lineups.
• Coach Perkins said: “We hope to compete for the Hoosier Hills Conference championship and the sectional championship this year. It’s great to have this many new girls on the team. As a coach, I am taking my time to figure out what will be the best situation for our team throughout the season so we can be at our best at the end fo the year. We will look at ever possible meet lineup to put the girls in situations where they can be successful.”
• Coach: Keith Gast, 15th season at Jeff.
• Assistant Coaches: Michael Dennis, Greg Smith (diving), April Gibson (diving).
• Departed Swimmers: Hanna Martin (three-year state qualifier), Kea Gwin (four-year sectional finalist).
• Returning Varsity Swimmers: Elizabeth Browne (So., 100, 200 free); Samantha Glover (Jr., IM and breast); Katie Scott (Sr., sprints and back); Alexa Waldrip (diving); Yanna Martin (IM, fly and breast); Amber Leininger (distance free).
• Varsity Newcomers: Amelia Blankenbeker (free and fly); Kali Crace (fly, back and sprints); Karlee Demsey (100 fly, 100 back).
• Outlook: Jeff could have its best season in years. Demsey, who moved from Jeff to Kentucky, has moved back and Gast believes she can be a state finalist and a solid replacement fror Hanna Martin. The Red Devils have some individual conference and sectional championship contenders and decent depth. Making a run at Floyd and New Albany is unlikely, but it’s not impossible.
• Coach Gast said: “We are already better than I thought we would be this season. It looks like we might be facing a real rebuilding season, but we are looking forward to the next few weeks as we will start our dual meet competitions against HHC competition, including Seymour, New Albany and Floyd Central. If we want to improve on our fourth-place finish from last season, we have to be able to beat one or more of those teams. It will be a tough task as all three of those teams are traditionally HHC powers, but I like our chances to improve this season.”
• Coach: Steve Bonifer, 22nd season at New Albany.
• Departed Swimmers: Abby Liktenhous, Courtney Lancaster.
• Returning Varsity Swimmers: Hannah Manger (Sr.), Lauren McCool (Sr.), Phoebe Bauer (Sr.), Rachel Klein (Sr.), Shelby Renner (Sr.), Alexis Lete (So.), Kaitlyn Stewart (Sr.), Kelsey Newlin (Sr.), Lauren Kessinger (So., diver).
• Varsity Newcomers: Reagan Thom (Fr.), Elsie Brown (Fr.), Emma Reas (Fr.), Gabby Getty (Fr.).
• Outlook: With seven returning seniors and Lete, who was a valuable contributor as a freshman last season, New Albany will once again be a Hoosier Hills Conference and sectional contender. There’s no doubt that Bulldogs will place a ton of swimmers near the front at the conference and sectional. The question is will they have enough depth to compete with Floyd Central and Seymour.
• Coach Bonifer said: “We have only 12 girls swimming and three divers, but out of our 12, we have some pretty solid swimmers. Our divers — Lauren Kessinger, Grace Sherrell and Emma Reas — should do very well this year. On the swimming side, we have three out of the four swimmers back on two relays that went to state — Hannah Manger, Rachel Klein and Alexis Lete. Lauren McCool is a very hard worker who could steop into the fourth spot, along with Reagan Thom. Other swimmers that should help out consistently are Phoebe Bauer, Shelby Renner, Kaitlyn Stewart, Shelby Kerberg and Kelsey Newlin.”
• Coach: Rhonda VanMeter, 2nd season at Silver Creek.
• Assistant Coach: Nick Salinas.
• Departed Swimmers: Carlie Stark.
• Returning Varsity Swimmers: None.
• Varsity Newcomers: Kaitlin Sullivan (Fr.), Shelby Lawson (Fr.), Lauren Pressley (Fr.), Andrea Cortes (Fr.), Kelsey Riggs (Fr.).
• Outlook: With no returning swimmers — and only five total — it’s unlikely the Dragons will be competing for championships. However, with a nice group of incoming freshman, the Creek program has something on which it can build.
• Coach VanMeter said: “My expectations and goals for this year are for these girls to finish with a sense of accomplishment [and] with a positive attitude. Each of these girls add their own unique personality and attribute to the team. With having such a small team, it’s hard to compete against some of the larger teams, but I am very confident that this year we will hold our own.”
Note: Providence did not respond to requests to participate in the season preview.