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November 28, 2012

H.S. SWIMMING PREVIEW: Highlanders look to repeat at conference, sectional

Dogs, Devils hope to push for HHC, sectional titles

> 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.”

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