Swimmers enjoy last Pilgrim Relays at current PHS pool

PLYMOUTH — Culver Military Academy won nine of 10 events to continue its streak of championships, while Culver Girls Academy’s short-handed squad took the title in its first-ever venture at the 29th Annual Pilgrim Relays Saturday at Plymouth High School.
Plymouth finished second a second straight year in the boys race, while the Lady Pilgrims’ placed third behind Rochester with just seven swimmers in a relay meet whose format rewards depth. North Judson was fourth in the girls meet, meanwhile.
With the PHS pool slated to close at the end of March, swimmers were mindful they were competing in the last such relays at the current PHS pool. It was the 29th year for the meet, begun in 1983, a relaxed competition designed to take a step back from the more serious competition of traditionally-formatted meets at the front end of the swim season.
“Our expectations were to have fun. The idea was a pizza party,” said Culver Academies Head Swim Coach Major Tom Duckett.
“The thing about this meet is it builds kids’ morale. They have fun, and that’s the whole idea. That’s why we wanted to get the girls here. I would like to see these relays continue even if we have to help Plymouth host them next year. That’s in the future. Obviously a lot of coordination between two schools, but I don’t want to see these things go away. Not because we won today, Plymouth used to win it, I just want to see it continue. It’s a good thing for the children.”
The Pilgrims boys swim team finished second in six events and never placed lower than third in any event in its last go-around at the current swim facilities, scoring 92 points behind Culver’s 134 and ahead of Rochester’s 84.
“Heavy on our mind was that this was this last meet in this pool. Knowing that — I don’t have any freshman on our boys team, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but I have experienced swimmers, they know what they’re up against — we swam very well today,” said PHS Boys Head Swim Coach Leanne Senter. “We had some best times. We just talked about how we knew there was going to be some stiff competition here. We swam very well and we’re working very hard at getting our program back at both levels.”
“I’m tickled pink, and I’m very pleased with the boys’ performance,” she continued. “It’s kind of a fun meet. It’s kind of different to swim, but you bare down and you give it all you’ve got.”
Culver Military was led by three first place finishes from a quartet of swimmers in Jorge DeLaVega, Bryan DeVries, Zach Grant and Leopoldo Burguete, who recently finished off a strong cross country season for CMA with individual sectional and regional championships en route to a semistate finish to the season.
“I would say watch out for our cross country runner Polo. He’s going to do some pretty amazing things this year,” said Duckett.
Plymouth was led by senior captains Jared Hill and Ben Shortt, who helped the team to a second-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay just .74 of a second behind Rochester’s 1:41.66 along with Jordan Wendel and John Slater. Shortt also finished second in the 200 butterfly relay along with teammates Tom Serf, Matthew Pearson and Clayton Maddox, while Serf, Joe Brennan, Jake Martin and Levi Schuler finished second behind CMA in the backstroke relay.
“We came in second in almost every relay. A couple thirds, but Jared Hill, Ben Shortt, our senior captains, they had an amazing day with their times,” said Senter. “Levi Schuler in the lead-off leg of the 50 back was awesome. Our 200 free relay was just amazing. We came this close from coming from behind to win that, and that was exciting.”
Culver Girls Academy was led at the meet by three firsts from India Irving, Maeve Daly-Kline, Jaclyn Schutjer, Rory Byrne and Lauryn Robinson as the Lady Eagles found themselves more short-handed than usual due to several swimmers taking ACT exams the day of the meet.
Merityell Fernandez also stepped up big in the absence of a pair of swimmers in the breast stroke and backstroke relays.
“Merityell Fernandez, who is basically a JV swimmer, due to someone being put into the health center, all of a sudden I had to yank her out and say ‘You’re going to swim in the breast stroke relay,’” said Duckett. “We had to teach her how to do a breast stroke start and turn last night, then one of our girls got sick so she had to hop straight back into the backstroke relay. So that says a lot for that young lady.”
Plymouth’s girls squad, which had to stretch seven swimmer across 10 different relays, managed a pair of wins in the diving relay and the backstroke relay.
Lauren Page, Alayna Holmquest, Layne Holloway and Megan Senter won the backstroke race in 2:18.71, nosing out CGA by just .06 of a second, while senior captain Homquest and sophomore Melissa Pedavoli won the dive competition with a combined score of 153.5, well ahead of Tippecanoe Valley’s 132.65.
“Our divers have been practicing very hard,” said first-year PHS Girls Swim Coach Katie Kappler. “Alayna is our senior and our captain, so she is very, very experienced. Her goal is set very high this year. She is really trying to learn some new dives, some more difficult dives, and she is kind of trying them out to get some more points in for us and for her as well. And Melissa, superstar, this is her all-time best diving that she’s done so far. She’s been practicing a lot. She swims too, so she kind of splits her times, and that’s a little bit hard. She did a really good job for us today.
“I was not expecting it because we had two girls in there who don’t normally swim backstroke — Alayna, who’s a diver, and then Layne Holloway who is our freestyle sprinter. That was a really fun win for us. They tried really hard, and they pulled it out.”
With little depth to the squad, the Lady Pilgrims had virtually no chance to win Saturday’s team meet, so swimmers focused on individual goals and were rewarded for their hard work with two firsts and three second-place results.
“Because we do have such a small team, our goals are to win our events in the races that we’re in,” said Kappler. “We focus on our individual times and improving every time we swim. It’s a little bit disheartening for our girls to not win when they’re so competitive, but they really are doing a good job focusing on their events and their times and bringing their times down.”
“I just want to comment on the girls, for seven girls to finish third in this meet is amazing,” added Senter. “I’m just very proud of the work ethic of everybody.”
At Plymouth
Boys results
200 medley relay: 1. CMA (Zach Grant, Bryan DeVries, Leopoldo Burguete, Sam Curtis) 1:52.64; 2. Rochester, 1:55.73; 3. Plymouth, 1:56.4.
500 medley relay: 1. CMA (Harris Allen, Sam Curtis, Zach Grant, Jorge DelaVega) 4:51.66; 2. Washington, 5:05.65; 3. Plymouth, 5:18.04.
100 freestyle relay: 1. CMA (Mauricio Cohen, Jingyuan Liang, Santiago Aguirre, Pablo Padilla) :48.35; 2. Plymouth, :51.29; 3. Rochester, :56.49.
200 butterfly relay: 1. CMA (Sam Curtis, Ian Bardwell, Javier Bravo, Leopoldo Burguete) 1:52.32; 2. Plymouth, 1:57.34; 3. Rochester, 2:03.
Diving: 1. CMA (Harris Allen, Mauricio Cohen) 166.55; 2. Rochester, 146.95; 3. Plymouth, 131.85.
400 freestyle relay: 1. CMA (Jorge DelaVega, Winston Olson, Ian Bardwell, Bryan DeVries) 3:40.08; 2. Plymouth, 3:54.68; 3. Washington, 4:01.52.
200 breaststroke relay: 1. CMA (Javier Bravo, Pablo Padilla, Johnny Young, Bryan DeVries) 2:17.05; 2. Plymouth, 2:23; 3. Rochester, 2:42.42.
200 backstroke relay: 1. CMA (Jorge DelaVega, Peter Brotherton, Winston Olson, Zach Grant) 1:54.86; 2. Plymouth, 2:05.55; 3. Rochester, 2:50.6.
400 medley relay: 1. CMA (Javier Bravo, Ian Bardwell, Peter Brotherton, Leopoldo Burguete) 4:25.56; 2. Rochester, 4:40.97; 3. Plymouth, 4:45.6.
200 freestyle relay: 1. Rochester (Patrick Kays, Tyler Smoker, Sawyer Cripe, Steven Newton) 1:41.66; 2. Plymouth, 1:42.3; 3. CMA, 1:46.19.
Girls results
200 medley relay: 1. CGA (Natalie Bittles, Olivia Gillingham, Lauryn Robinson, Jaclyn Schutjer) 2:09.93; 2. Rochester, 2:16.39; 3. North Judson, 2:28.3.
500 medley relay: 1. CGA (India Irving, Maeve Daly-Kline, Sophia Grazian, Josephine Scott) 5:34.63; 2. Plymouth, 5:42.31; 3. Rochester, 6:18.71.
100 freestyle relay: 1. CGA (Eden Brackenbury, Sarah Stackhouse, Morgan McCracken, India Irving) :55.99; 2. Rochester, 1:02.73; 3. North Judson, 1:09.89.
200 butterfly relay: 1. CGA (Josephine Scott, Olivia Gillingham, Maeve Daly-Kline, Lauryn Robinson) 2:33.33; 2. Rochester, 2:40.75; 3. North Judson, 3:10.82.
Diving: 1. Plymouth (Alayna Holmquest, Melissa Pedavoli) 153.5; 2. Tippecanoe Valley, 132.65; 3.; 3. CGA, 118.45.
400 freestyle relay: 1. CGA (Lauryn Robinson, Jaclyn Schutjer, Sara Powell, Rory Byrne) 4:02.46; 2. Tippecanoe Valley, 4:50.66; 3. Rochester, 4:51.92.
200 breaststroke relay: 1. CGA (Jaclyn Schutjer, Merityell Fernandez, Josephine Scott, Rory Byrne) 2:34.16; 2. Plymouth, 2:44.12; 3. Rochester, 2:50.36.
200 backstroke relay: 1. Plymouth (Lauren Page, Alayna Holmquest, Layne Holloway, Megan Senter) 2:18.71; 2. CGA, 2:18.77; 3. Rochester, 2:41.45.
400 medley relay: 1. CGA (Natalie Bittles, Olivia Gillingham, Carson Canonie, Rory Byrne) 5:00.55; 2. Plymouth, 5:23.37; 3. Rochester, 5:45.54.
200 freestyle relay: 1. CGA (Sophia Grazian, India Irving, Carson Canonie, Maeve Daly-Kline) 2:01.67; 2. Rochester, 2:15.89; 3. Washington, 3:17.38.