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Floyd County Sports

December 6, 2013

GIRLS' SWIMMING PREVIEW: Jeff believes it can compete with Highlanders for HHC, sectional

Six-time defending champion Floyd still sectional favorite

JEFFERSONVILLE — With Hannah Manger and Rachel Klein, who each won four sectional titles a year ago, no longer at New Albany, Jeffersonville appears to be the next team up to challenge six-time defending sectional champion Floyd Central for Hoosier Hills Conference and sectional supremacy this season.

Jeff returns nearly everyone from last year’s third-place sectional team and is coming off a big win on Tuesday over Seymour — another sectional power — in which six different Red Devils won individual events.

“We would like to think that this is the year we can take on Floyd Central and win the HHC and sectional,” Jeff coach Keith Gast said.

Gast has good reason for optimism.

Senior Karlee Demsey was a sectional champion and state qualifier in the 100-yard butterfly and the 200 medley relay a year ago. She was joined by senior Samantha Glover, Elizabeth Browne and Yanna Martin on the state finalist 200-yard medley relay team. All three should be sectional contenders in their own right in 2013-14.

Talented juniors Amber Leininger and Kali Crace and sophomore Amelia Blankenbeker should help give Jeff a challenger in every event in the conference and sectional meets. Freshman Jacqueline Richard leads a strong freshman class and Erica Romans has been one of the area’s top divers early this season.

Romans is joined by New Albany transfer Lauren Kessinger, who finished second in the diving event in the sectional for the Bulldogs a year ago.

The Devils appear to be stronger in 2013-14, but is it enough to unseat the Highlanders?

“They have been in control of both for a long time, very long time,” Gast said. “Too long, if you ask my girls. But that last step, knocking down the big dog, is always tough. They have been a championship program for many years, and they won’t give it up easily.”

Floyd returns nearly everyone from last year’s team that edged New Albany and Jeff for another sectional crown.

Meg Taylor returns after winning the sectional and going to state in the 500 freestyle last season.

“With Meg Taylor scoring at the state meet last season, she looks to continue that during her junior year and has a shot at several school records,” Highlander coach Joe Perkins said.

Maryn Meldrum also is a returning state finalist after she won the 100 breaststroke at the Floyd Central Sectional last season.

The Highlanders only won three events — two by Taylor — at last year’s sectional. The reason they kept their stranglehold on the sectional crown was depth. This year will be no different with 11 swimmers returning who scored in last year’s sectional.

Senior Lauren Batliner returns as a breaststroke specialist. Sydney Baumann is a senior diver, while sophomore Jessica Ingram will be a sectional contender in the two freestyle sprinting events. Sophomore Alex Jamison finished ninth in the 200 freestyle as a freshman, and sophomore Layah Jones placed third in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 100 backstroke as a freshman last year. Senior Jessica Pinnick gives the Highlanders depth in the backstroke and the butterfly, and senior Amy McCormick was the runner-up to Taylor in the 200 and 500 free.

“We have a tremendous amount of leadership and returning swimmers this season,” Perkins said. “We expect to be very competitive this season. This group has come into the season working very hard and looks to build on it during the season.”

While Manger and Klein are gone, New Albany is expected to return some strong pieces. Junior Alexis Lete is probably the sectional favorite in the freestyle sprints, and sophomore Reagan Thom was second to Meldrum in the breaststroke and to Demsey in the butterfly last season. Both also swam on two state finals relay teams with Manger, who’s now swimming at Purdue, and Klein.

Bulldog sophomore Emma Reas should be a contender to advance to the Bloomington Diving Regional.

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