PLYMOUTH — Long after the last event had ended, Plymouth’s swimmers were still splashing around in the pool.
They might have been reluctant to leave the water in the last meet at the site, scheduled to close at the end of March. Or they might only have been caught up in the Senior Night celebration.
Culver Military Academy handed Plymouth a 113-69 defeat and Culver Girls Academy topped the hosts 138-41, and while the significance of the night did inspire some tears, the mood was largely celebratory in a Senior Night send-off representing the final meet at the PHS pool Thursday at Plymouth.
“It’s hard getting them out of the water at this point, and I’ll remind them of that at practice tomorrow,” joked Plymouth head coach Leanne Senter, whose connections to the pool run deep as the longtime director of the Plymouth Sharks youth swim program as well as the PHS boys skipper and dive coach. “Senior Night is always kind of bittersweet, but the fact that this is the last group to swim in this pool is really sad. I have been crying all day off and on. To think that so many of these kids swam age group and have been swimming here since they were five, six, seven, including my two kids… We have to celebrate the moment and move on.”
Plymouth senior Alayna Holmquest saved her best for last as she set a school record in the dive with a field-topping 227.65 score, easily outstripping the 20-year record of 217.90 set by Kara Hollenbaugh in 1991.
“I’m proud of Alayna. She works so hard, and she deserves that record. That sets her up well for sectionals, and I’m looking forward to how we finish up the season, she and I together,” said Senter.
“I started her freshman year, so we were freshmen together. I will miss her terribly, but I wish her the best of luck. It’s been a great four years with her.”
Holmquest knew she was on pace to break the record with two rounds remaining, and she overcame nerves and Senior Night emotion to make the last dive competition at the PHS pool a memorable one.
“At the fifth dive I kind of knew where I was at, and I knew that I just needed to complete the dive and not crash and burn. I just had to keep calm, otherwise I knew it wouldn’t look as good as what it did,” she said.
“I was shaken. I just kept thinking that my team was going to be behind me 100 percent either way, so I just cleared my mind.”
Midway through the meet, Plymouth paid tribute to its eight seniors in Holmquest, Katelyn Brown, Jared Hill, Clayton Maddox, Ben Shortt, John Slater, Jordan Wendel and manager Melanie Pedavoli.
Even Plymouth’s coaches joined in the revelry after the meet as swimmers playfully tossed girls swim coach Katie Kappler and assistant coach Beth Corbett in the pool, and Senter jumped off the diving board to join her swimmers and fellow coaching staff members in the water.
“I think it definitely has a deep impact for a lot of people. Most of our swimmers have swum here since they were Sharks, so they’ve been swimming here since they were five years old,” said Kappler. “They have deep ties to this pool. For our seniors, they really feel that loss, that it’s going to be missed, but I think there’s kind of like a happy, nostalgic, glad we had it here-type of a thing and that we got to wrap it up with their senior year.”
It was fitting that the Culver Academies were present in the last hurrah at the Plymouth pool, since — with several meetings between the two squads each year, at the Pilgrim Relays as well as at dual meets and the Warsaw Sectional — arguably no other team has closer ties with the facility and PHS. The Eagles have even offered to help out the Plymouth program in the interim as it attempts to raise funds for a new pool.
“We have swum against Plymouth since I’ve been here, so that’s 25 years,” said Academies head coach Major Tom Duckett. “I know that their coaches are sad that this pool is going away, and they’re going to fight tooth and nail to keep the program alive. We’re going to help them. The age group program is going to be over at our pool in May, and we’ve offered to let them host some meets in our pool. Plymouth is a good program; it should not go away.”
Thursday’s send-off at Plymouth was the first meet back for the Academies after a long break as the boarding school took four weeks off for the holidays.
Led by four-event winners Lauryn Robinson and Rory Byrne, the Lady Eagles still managed to go one-two in 10 events and win all but the dive competition, and the Eagles sewed up the top two spots in five events while winning eight total events paced by three-event victors Leopoldo Burguete and Jorge De la Vega.
“We take prodigious holiday breaks. We’ve had a total of four weeks out of the water between Thanksgiving and Christmas while other teams were in the pool. If I were to make a prediction going ahead, I’d be foolish,” said Duckett.
“It depends how they get through the breakdown and taper process. Every year I’m utterly terrified on whether we’re going to be able to pull it off at sectional or not. At this point, our performance here, we’re anywhere from five seconds off the norm in distance events to about one or two seconds off in the 100.”
Plymouth’s girls team was led by Holmquest, while Lauren Page finished second in the backstroke and third in the individual medley, and Megan Senter finished third in the 500 free with a season-best 5:58.72.
Only two weeks remain until both Plymouth and CGA enter the Warsaw Girls Sectional Feb. 2.
“I’m really excited for sectionals,” said Kappler. “Some of our girls have been outstanding. Layne Holloway, she has dropped so much time in her sprints, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her in the 50 and 100. Megan Senter, breaking six minutes tonight, which is her best for the season, we’re all looking for a really good swim from her in the 500 at sectionals. And I think all the girls are just really ready to get up and race as a team because they know that this is what we’ve got.”
Plymouth’s boys were led by Joe Brennan’s first in the fly, Brandon Brashere’s first in the breaststroke and Tom Serf’s and Levi Schuler’s respective one-two finish in the backstroke, as well as Elliott Eads’ second-place result in the 50 free.
The Pilgrims also managed to close out competition at the pool in winning style as Serf, Eads, Hill and Blake Milliser clocked a 3:48.39 in the 400 free relay to win the last race of the night.
It was a felicitous farewell to the pool and to the team’s seniors, and one that even the competition’s coach couldn’t begrudge.
“I’m glad to see they won the last relay,” said Duckett as he departed the facility for the last time. “As it should be.”
• CGA 138, PLYMOUTH 41
200 medley relay: 1. CGA (Eberle Miller, Rory Byrne, Lauryn Robinson, Jaclyn Schutjer) 2:00.69, 2. CGA 2:12.51; 200 free: 1. Josephine Schott (CGA) 2:14.98, 2. Sophia Grazian (CGA) 2:19.99; 200 IM: 1. Byrne (CGA) 2:25.78, 2. Anna Zaccaria (CGA) 2:39.41; 50 free: 1. Robinson (CGA) 25.84, 2. Schutjer (CGA) 27.23; Diving: 1. Alayna Holmquest (P) 227.65 (New School Record), 2. Ana Sophia Gonzalez (CGA) 121.75; 100 butterfly: 1. Zaccaria (CGA) 1:11.57, 2. Olivia Gillingham (CGA) 1:13.11; 100 free: 1. Robinson (CGA) 58.34, 2. Miller (CGA) 59.54; 500 free: 1. Schott (CGA) 5:53.93, 2. Grazian (CGA) 5:58.33; 200 free relay: 1. CGA (Zaccaria, Gillingham, Betsy Whitfield, Schott) 1:55.17, 2. CGA 2:00.55; 100 backstroke: 1. Natalie Bittles (CGA) 1:09.26, 2. Lauren Page (P) 1:15.48; 100 breaststroke: 1. Byrne (CGA) 1:14.26, 2. Whitfield (CGA) 1:19.55; 400 free relay: 1. CGA (Robinson, Miller, Schutjer, Byrne) 3:57.82, 2. CGA 4:23.07.
• CMA 113, PLYMOUTH 69
200 medley relay: 1. CMA (Sam Curtis, Bryan DeVries, Leopoldo Burguete, Zach Grant) 1:51.32, 2. Plymouth 1:55.51; 200 free: 1. Jorge De la Vega (CMA) 2:00.37, 2. Sam Curtis (CMA) 2:05.03; 200 IM: 1. Burguete (CMA) 2:15.31, 2. Ian Bardwell (CMA) 2:23; 50 free: 1. Grant (CMA) 23.78, 2. Elliott Eads (P) 24.4; Diving: 1. Mauricio Cohen (CMA) 193.15, 2. Harris Allen (CMA) 178.9; 100 butterfly: 1. Joe Brennan (P) 1:01.74, 2. Javier Bravo (CMA) 1:02.62; 100 free: 1. De la Vega (CMA) 52.33, 2. Bryan DeVries (CMA) 53.29; 500 free: 1. Burguete (CMA) 5:26.35, 2. Pablo Padilla (CMA) 5:51.53; 200 free relay: 1. CMA (DeVries, Bravo, Allen, De la Vega) 1:40.46, 2. Plymouth 1:40.93; 100 backstroke: 1. Tom Serf (P) 1:03.6, 2. Levi Schuler (P) 1:05.82; 100 breaststroke: 1. Brandon Brashere (P) 1:14.01, 2. Padilla (CMA) 1:15.24; 400 free relay: 1. Plymouth (Jared Hill, Blake Milliser, Serf, Eads) 3:48.39, 2. CMA 3:52.39.