WARSAW — Last year’s sectional championship was the first ever in Culver Girls Academy history. It also seems to have left the Lady Eagles hungry for more.
CGA’s swim team put itself in good position to repeat at the Warsaw Sectional preliminaries Thursday, earning a total of 20 finals qualifications — including five top seeds — and another seven consolation berths in advance of Saturday’s sectional finals.
“You would always like to do it after you know you’ve done it once,” said CGA swim coach Cali Girard of a potential championship repeat. “That was the first time in our school history that we’ve been able to do it, and now that it’s a possibility it’s always in the back of their minds. We had an early loss to Goshen this year because they were thinking about themselves, and we’ve really tried to push this year that it’s got to be about the team. The team comes first, and then we figure out what comes after that.”
As it did last year, this year’s team championship is likely to boil down to a battle between CGA and host Warsaw, which put swimmers in 18 spots in the finals with top finishes in the medley relay, the 200 free relay and the breaststroke, and earned another four consolation berths back to this weekend’s races.
The Lady Eagles claimed the top spot in five events as Eberle Miller clocked the fastest time in both the 200 free and the backstroke, Lauryn Robinson was first in the free, Rory Byrne touched fastest in the individual medley, and Anna Zaccaria, Josephine Schott, Jaclyn Schutjer and Byrne closed out the meet with a top finish in the 400 free relay.
CGA also claimed multiple finals berths in eight different events Thursday.
Miller and Schott went one-three in the 200 free, Byrne and Betsy Whitfield went one-four in the IM, Robinson and Schutjer went two-five in the 50 free, Zaccaria and Karen Zhu went three-seven in the butterfly, Robinson and Schutjer were one-four in the 100, Schott and Anne Marie Wright were second and seventh in the 500, Byrne and Betsy Whitfield placed third and fourth in the breaststroke, respectively, and Miller, Natalie Bittles and Zhu went one-three-six in the backstroke.
CGA qualified for the finals in every event, and everyone on the squad qualified for the second day of sectionals in at least one race.
“We got all the girls through, so that’s good. In a lot of the events we were able to get two into the finals, which was good,” said Girard. “Our goal was to get at least two and as many as possible through. And obviously we wanted to get everybody in something on Saturday. It looks like we have some middle of the roads. We have a lot from four up, quite a few girls, so that’s very good.”
“Some of them didn’t get the times they wanted, but they all fought and they all got into something Saturday,” Girard added. “It’s hard for some of them to see, but they got into something and they have another chance.”
Meanwhile at Thursday’s prelims, Plymouth placed swimmers in four different finals and five consols.
Sophomore Layne Holloway qualified for the finals with fifth-place finishes in both the 200 and 100 free, while senior Megan Senter was fifth in the 500. Senter and Holloway also combined with teammates Lexi Fetters and Lauren Page to survive to Saturday in eighth in the 200 free relay, not a shabby finish for a relay swimming with a modified lineup.
“Our relays did okay. We were short one person; Savannah Mae is sick,” said Plymouth head coach Leanne Senter. “That would have made a difference, but we’ll be better on Saturday.”
While Megan Senter earned a consolation berth in 10th place in the 50 free, Fetters recorded a pair of season-best times to qualify for the consols in both the butterfly and the backstroke, in 10th and 11th, respectively. Page placed 10th in both the backstroke and the IM, meanwhile, to earn consol berths in those races as well.
While Senter, Fetters, Page and Holloway lived to swim another day, the rest of the Lady Pilgrims squad closed out its season at Thursday’s prelims.
Brianna Hayes was 28th in the breaststroke, 32nd in the 100, 11th in the 400 free relay with Brianda Lowe, Anya Hettich and Holloway, and she finished just shy of a finals berth in ninth place in the medley relay along with Page, Fetters and Senter.
Along with her 11th-place turn in the 400 free relay, Lowe was 26th in the 500, Hettich recorded personal-bests in both the 50 and 100 free on her way to 31st-place finishes in both events, and Mariah Tepper dropped almost 20 seconds off her personal best time in the 200 freestyle to finish 36th in the event.
Plymouth closes out the year Saturday following a tough season in which the Lady Pilgrims were without a home pool and finished with 13 team members.
“The fact that we’re here and we’re making the finals and consolation finals with not as much practice as we normally have and not as much water time, it’s good. It’s all good, it speaks to the character of these young ladies,” said Leanne Senter.
Oregon-Davis’ small squad closed out its season Thursday. Seniors Kasandra McMahon and Abigail Gregory finished 35th and 36th, in the 200 freestyle, respectively, while McMahon was 28th and Gregory was 36th in the 100 free.