CULVER — At the tail end of last season, the Culver Academies swim teams spoiled an undefeated New Prairie record. But more than avoiding any potential reprisals for that loss, Monday’s dual meet at the Academies was more about a gut check than anything else.
Approaching the winter break after a grueling front end of the season and with all the fatigue, anticipation of the holidays and illness entailed by this time of year, new Culver head swim coach Cali Girard simply wanted to see her swimmers compete.
The Eagles passed the test with flying colors as they handed the visiting Cougars a pair of losses in a girls/ boys swim meet that ended in identical 115-65 scores at historic James R. Lowenstine Pool.
“It was more fortunate where it was last year I think because you get a break. The kids get a little more rested and a little more relaxed, so I think it was going to be a little more competitive meet at that point,” said Girard. “This is is competition but across the board it’s basically who can be less tired and who can have less sick kids. I know they came in and they had like eight changes. They probably were looking forward to it, but I know as a coach, especially this late before Christmas the kids are looking forward to Christmas, they’re all sick, so you’re just trying to get them to push every ounce they have out, for the ones who can actually swim.”
“This meet is our hardest. I keep telling all of them if they’re sad about their times I’m like ‘Guys, it doesn’t matter. Just be competitive,’ and that’s all we ask for at this meet,” she added.
The boys showcased their depth in the win over New Prairie, winning seven of 12 events, but more importantly going one-two in both the 50 and 100 freestyle swims as well as in the 200 free relay, thanks to a false start by the Cougars.
Bryan DeVries claimed top honors in both the 50 free and breaststroke as well as in the 400 free relay, while Leopoldo Burguete finished first in the individual medley and on the 400 free relay, and Grant Ralston placed first in the 100 free — following a second-place turn in the 50 free — and swam anchor for the Eagles’ winning 400 free relay squad.
The girls went one-two in four races themselves and were led by several standout performances for the night.
Rory Byrne went four-for-four in wins with victories in both the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay as well as the individual medley and 100 free. Byrne’s 200 medley and 400 free relay teammates Lauryn Robinson and Eberle Miller each finished with a trio of wins as Robinson claimed an individual win in the fly and Miller won the backstroke, and that trio’s two-win relay partner Jaclyn Schutjer was joined by Josephine Schott and Anna Zaccaria with a pair of wins apiece as the former topped the field in the 200 and 500 free races, and the latter won the breaststroke and was a winner on the Lady Eagles’ 200 free relay team.
“We planned for the boys and girls a little bit differently because we knew that the girls weren’t as strong. Basically I’ve been using the last few (girls) meets to kind of flesh out how I’m going to do the sectional lineup so I’ve been filling some slots that kids aren’t used to,” said Girard.
“The boys, it was more of a ‘Have you been doing what you should be in practice?’ They’re exhausted. A lot of them are in troupe and preparing for inaugural so they’ve been doing extra exercises on the weekend. Half the team has the flu.. so it was can they fight to the very end, and they showed that they could, which is good.”
Monday’s meet opened with a dominant, better-than-16-second win by Miller, Byrne, Robinson and Schutjer in the medley relay, and the quartet combined once more to close out the girls meet with an equally dominant victory in the 400 free relay, topping New Prairie’s A relay squad by more than 26 seconds with a 3:56.07.
The foursome has been golden for the Lady Eagles in all three relays this year, as last week they combined to break a 10-year-old pool record in the 200 free relay with a 1:43.55 stop, a full second better than the previous mark that had stood for a decade.
“It was St. Joe. That one on the board meant a lot to CGA, and it was nice to see it’s now back in CGA’s hands,” Girard said of the record. “It was pretty special because the girls last year kind of knew they could’ve beaten it, but (former head coach Tom Duckett) kind of wanted to wait and give them another year so that they could soundly beat it. It’s nice, and we’re going to try again for the medley at Plymouth. We’ll see what happens.”
Monday’s wins kept the Eagles unbeaten in duals this season and kept the Lady Eagles at a single loss in Girard’s first season at the helm of both programs.
Girard takes over for 25-year boys coach Major Tom Duckett, who briefly headed the girls program for Girard last season as she went on sabbatical after serving as head coach of the Lady Eagles for four years. Girard’s previous experience as the girls head coach as well as Duckett’s continued involvement with the boys team this season have combined to help make her transition a smooth one.
“What’s been helpful is I’ve had the girls for the four years before last year, so this year is only the first year I’ve been head coach of the boys as well. We’re slowing that process because Major’s been here for so long there’s no way he’s not going to be a big part of the boys team,” Girard said. “It has been an eye-opening experience when it comes to the software and the organization and all that, but when it comes down to practices and how involved I am in the boys it’s just a little bit of a change. I’m sure when he leaves it’s going to be a big change, but right now it’s been nice because he’s there to back me up.”
• CULVER GIRLS ACADEMY 115,
NEW PRAIRIE 65
200 Medley Relay: 1. CGA (Eberle Miller, Rory Byrne, Lauryn Robinson, Jaclyn Schutjer) 1:58.91, 2. NP (Sami Wagner, Sami Vogeler, Nicole Vanheste, Amber Carlisle) 2:15.00; 200 Freestyle: 1. Josephine Schott (CGA) 2:13.38, 2. Lexi Wagner (NP) 2:19.64; 200 Individual Medley: 1. Byrne (CGA) 2:24.01, 2. Betsy Whitfield (CGA) 2:34.57; 50 Freestyle: 1. Vanheste (NP) 27.41, 2. Schutjer (CGA) 27.62; Diving: 1. Lauren Watts (CGA) 132.85, 2. Melissa Rieckmann (NP) 114.80; 100 Butterfly: 1. Robinson (CGA) 1:04.58, 2. Annabelle Papai (NP) 1:11.19; 100 Freestyle: 1. Byrne (CGA) 55.88, 2. Schutjer (CGA) 1:01.41; 500 Freestyle: 1. Schott (CGA) 5:46.15, 2. Caitlyn Witkamp (NP) 6:15.97; 200 Freestyle Relay: 1. CGA (Anna Zaccaria, Taylor Stuewe, Sarah Jamieson, Whitfield) 1:53.84, 2. NP (Melanie Herrold, Carlisle, Kelsey Dreibelbeis, Vanheste) 1:54.56; 100 Backstroke: 1. Miller (CGA) 1:02.94, 2. Karen Zhu (CGA) 1:12.85; 100 Breaststroke: 1. Zaccaria (CGA) 1:19.82, 2. Vogeler (NP) 1:21.86; 400 Freestyle Relay: 1. CGA (Robinson, Miller, Schutjer, Byrne) 3:56.07, 2. NP (Witkamp, Ally McLaughlin, Amber Carlisle, Melaniee Herrold) 4:22.47.
• CULVER MILITARY 115,
NEW PRAIRIE 65
200 Medley Relay: 1. NP (James Zwierzynski, Todd Suttor, Hunter Papai, Michael DeGroote) 1:50.09, 2. CMA (Peter Brotherton, Bryan DeVries, Leopoldo Burguete, Grant Ralston) 1:50.63; 200 Freestyle: 1. Suttor (NP) 1:58.87, 2. Samuel Curtis (CMA) 2:01.54; 200 Individual Medley: 1. Burguete (CMA) 2:18.57, 2. Zwierzynski (NP) 2:18.59; 50 Freestyle: 1. DeVries (CMA) 23.95, 2. Ralston (CMA) 24.42; Diving: 1. Harris Allen (CMA) 167.60, 2. Collin Szymanski (NP) 159.20; 100 Butterfly: 1. Papai (NP) 59.81, 2. Javier Bravo (CMA) 1:01.75; 100 Freestyle: 1. Ralston (CMA) 52.94, 2. Leonardo Rodriquez (CMA) 54.12; 500 Freestyle: 1. Zwierzynski (NP) 5:30.23, 2. Allen (CMA) 5:46.70; 200 Freestyle Relay: 1. CMA (Brotherton, Jingyuan Liang, Bravo, Rodriquez) 1:40.42, 2. CMA 1:45.98; 100 Backstroke: 1. Brotherton (CMA) 1:01.17, 2. Papai (NP) 1:03.90; 100 Breaststroke: 1. DeVries (CMA) 1:08.85, 2. Suttor (NP) 1:08.96; 400 Freestyle Relay: 1. CMA (Burguete, DeVries, Curtis, Ralston) 3:39.08, 2. NP (Ian McSherry, Michael DeGroote, Papai, Suttor) 3:40.51.