WARSAW — Two weeks ago, the Warsaw Girls Swim Sectional shaped up to be largely a battle between the host Tigers and the Culver Academies with a significant drop-off for the rest of the field.
The boys tourney started out in much the same fashion Thursday, with Culver Military Academy and the Tigers crowding out the top eight with 23 and 22 finals berths, respectively, headed into the final round at the Warsaw Boys Sectional Saturday.
While CMA leads Warsaw in total finals berths, the rivals are dead even in consolation berths with a trio of top 16 swims each at Thursday’s preliminaries. But the hosts own one more first-place finish headed into this weekend’s finals with six top placements versus five by CMA. Plymouth qualified for the finals in two races, meanwhile, and the Pilgrims clinched four consolation berths at Warsaw.
The prelims played out largely as a contrast between relative team strengths with the Tigers dominating the stroke events and the Eagles showcasing some impressive depth in the freestyle races.
“Our strength is — we have a kind of an opposite set-up than Warsaw does — our strengths are freestyle depth, so we’re playing to that depth this year,” said longtime CMA head swim coach and current assistant coach Major Tom Duckett. “I also, since we have a lot of depth, diversified what the kids swim, so a lot of these kids are not swimming a full load. They’re swimming select events or they’re swimming two individual events and no relays, that kind of stuff.”
“That is a good luxury,” added Duckett. “Whether or not it helps against Warsaw is a totally other question, and I’ll be quite honest with you, I’d be shocked if it did. Best-case scenario for them is they’re in their home pool with their home crowd.”
Warsaw won the medley relay and went one-two in both the individual medley and the breaststroke and one-three in both the butterfly and the backstroke. The Tigers grabbed the top seed in the 50 free for good measure.
Individually for CMA, Bryan DeVries claimed top honors in both the 100 and 200 free races, and Leopoldo Burguete touched first in the 500.
If they avoid a letdown Saturday, the Eagles could put some breathing room between themselves and Warsaw in the relays with top finishes in two of three relays at Thursday’s consols. Jiangyuan Liang, Sam Curtis, Javier Bravo and Grant Ralston clocked the fastest time in the 200 free relay, and Burguete, Ralston, Curtis and Peter Brotherton combined to finish fastest in the 400 free relay.
With a drop-off of six points per place compared to three points in other events, championship swims in the relays will go a long way to helping the Eagles dethrone returning sectional champion Warsaw after the Tigers trumped CMA 445-427 last year.
“These are teenagers; you cannot predict what they’re going to do,” Duckett said. “They may surprise you and do something phenomenal and win, they may blow up and place. We’ve done everything to avoid the blow up and place scenario, and I think the boys are pretty fired up after the performances tonight.”
In addition to CMA’s five top finishes, Brotherton, Harris Allen, Ian Bardwell and Leonardo Rodriguez are seeded third in the medley relay; Brotherton and Curtis finished three-four in the 200 free behind DeVries; Burguete, Bardwell and Bravo went three-five-six in the IM; Ralston and Rodriguez finished two-seven in the 50; Bravo tied for fifth in the fly, and Bardwell just made the finals in eighth; Rodriguez was fourth in the 100 free; Pablo Padilla and Allen placed five-six in the 500 behind Burguete’s top finish; Brotherton finished seventh in the backstroke; and Santiago Aguirre, Johnny Young and Padilla went four-five-seven in the breaststroke.
Liang was 11th in the 50, Nolan Kolden was 11th in the back, and Cory Andrzejewski was 15th in the back to earn consolation berths there.
“Given what these boys went through this year with three weeks of holidays and the inaugural practices and the inauguration — typically for CMA, the inaugural year is a very down year. I haven’t analyzed all the swims, but it looks like we’re probably standing at 100 percent lifetime best swims,” said Duckett. “That is stunning relative to the training time that they’ve had.”
Senior Brandon Brashere earned Plymouth its best finish of the night with a fifth-place finish in the breaststroke, and Daniel DeLeon, Brady Ruffing, Colin Calvert and Christian Bastardo also made the finals cut in the 400 free relay. The Pilgrims came up less than a second shy of a top eight finish in the medley relay as Jake Martin, Brashere, Matt Pearson and Bastardo placed ninth to qualify for the consols in the first event of the night.
Pearson also claimed 14th in the 500 and 16th in the fly, and he combined with DeLeon, Martin and Brashere for 11th in the 400 free relay to qualify for consolation swims in all four of his events Thursday.
“Matt and Brandon had good swims when they swam,” said Plymouth head swim coach Leanne Senter. “Brandon’s other event was the 50 free, and he finished 17th. It’s hard to get back in that event.
“They’re both seeded with people they can race and as long as they come into it ready to race we’re good to go.”
It wasn’t quite the finish Plymouth was hoping for, but all in all, it wasn’t a bad showing for the short-handed Pilgrims, either, as seven of the team’s eight swimmers earned a spot back to Saturday’s races. The only swimmer who didn’t was freshman Chris Whitley, and he cut 12 seconds in the IM and nine seconds in the breaststroke to close out his season on a high note Thursday.
“We were slow. We needed to come in and at the very least equal our best times, and we just didn’t have it together. Time-wise, the (400 free) relay time was better than our seed time, but it wasn’t our season-best time. Our 200 free relay did okay. Medley relay missed making finals by less than a second,” said Senter.
“When we come back we have to be prepared to race and cheer each other on and get some better times. We should be able to win the consols of the two relays that we’re in. I think we really should be able to bump up a couple places in the 200 free relay.”