By GREG MENGELT
FLOYDS KNOBS —
While Jeffersonville returns two of the best swimmers in Southern Indiana, the Red Devils could be vulnerable after losing the bulk of the depth that helped them win the last four Hoosier Hills Conference championships and to the last three sectional titles.
If there’s a program that can dethrone Jeff, it’s Floyd Central. The Highlanders won sectional titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010 before the Red Devils began their reign.
“We should be very competitive in the conference meet and sectional and look to compete in the state meet and have athletes and relays swimming at the state finals,” Floyd coach Joe Perkins said.
In order to unseat Jeff, which won last year’s sectional title by 131 points over the runner-up Highlanders, Floyd will have to overcome some losses of its own. That includes state finalists Oscar Anderson and Kyle Crater.
“We expect to be very good at the end of the season,” Perkins said. “Our kids have started the season working well together with a tremendous amount of focus and attention to detail.”
Seven Highlanders return with varsity experience, led by junior freestylers Eli Anderson and Grant Anderson, sophomore breaststroker Matt Byrnes, junior backstroker Sam Cleveland, junior breaststroker Noble Guyon, junior freestyler Marc McCormick and sophomore butterfly and breaststroke specialist Brendon Smith.
They’ll be joined by seniors Colin Lyell and Nathan Manias, junior Blake Kazmierzak, sophomore Fu Hung Mou and a talented group of five freshmen on the varsity squad.
“Our first focus is to develop our depth for dual meets and [for] the end of the season,” Perkins said. “We have athletes that are very strong in each event and a second swimmer who is strong in each event, too. For us to be the best we can this year, we need to develop our third swimmers to the best of their potential. [We need to make] sure our kids understand the effort we are looking for each time we compete is a focus each season.”
Jeffersonville lost eight valuable swimmers from last year’s team that finished seventh in the state, including Josh Phelps and Karol Schuck, each of which finished in the top eight in the state in at least one individual event and two relays.
“We lost a lot last year,” Jeff coach Keith Gast said. “It was a big senior class to lose.”
Despite the loss of some depth, Jeff could be stronger in big meets in 2013-14, led by star senior Timothy “T” Martin and junior Evan Shive. Both scored in last year’s state meet with Martin finishing third in the 50-yard freestyle and fourth in the 500 free.
“We want to continue to control the HHC,” Gast said. “This group of seniors are looking to be the first class in school history to win the sectional all four years.”
They’ll be joined by senior distance freestyler Zach Daily, Zach Griffis (freestyle and butterfly), senior Tyler Sariscsany (freestyle), senior Evan Lopez (butterfly and individual medley), senior Sean Kennedy (IM, free), senior Max Weidekamp (IM, breaststroke), sophomore Michael Cain (distance freestyle), sophomore Cameron Simcoe (backstroke, freestyle), sophomore Jacob Stacey (backstroke, butterfly) and sophomore Ben Doss (breaststroke) as experienced varsity swimmers.
“We would also like to finish in the top 10 at the state championship,” Gast said. “We had seventh-place finishes in 2012 and 2013 and would love
to equal or better that spot this season.”
Freshmen Logan Thompson, Aidian Woods, Grant Hawkins, Cameron Gibson and Kevin Gast — the coach’s son — should help add to the Red Devils’ depth.
“A big key for us will be figuring out our best lineup,” Gast said. “The last few years, our best lineup has developed very early in the season. We had the right guys excelling in the right events that it all sort of worked out easily. This season looks a little tougher to figure out. Right now, there are a lot of different combinations that we can use, and we need to see who will step up in the right roles as we go through the season.”
New Albany hopes to improve on its seventh-place finish at the Floyd Central Sectional from a year ago. The Bulldogs will have to do so without Luke Lete, who won a pair of sectional titles and finished seventh in the state in the 50 freestyle and 18th in the 100 butterfly.
The Bulldogs will be led by the trio of Noah Boone, Brady Faust and Adam McGaren. As freshmen last year, Boone had a pair of top-12 sectional finishes and Faust was a finalist in two events. McGaren finished 12th in the 100 freestyle at last year’s sectional.
“[New Albany needs] a real dedication to working very hard on swimming fast and executing quality stroke mechanics,” New Albany coach Dutch Vigar said.