WARSAW — Culver Academies head coach Major Tom Duckett is mum about making any predictions about a sectional championship.
Two weeks ago his girls swim team surprised him with the program’s first-ever team championship, and that’s just what the boys are hoping to do as they enter tonight’s Warsaw Sectional prelims on the heels of an undefeated dual meet season.
Plymouth joins the 13-team Warsaw field tonight at 5:30 p.m. with the finals and consols set for the top eight and 16, respectively, Saturday morning, while Bremen enters the 10-team South Bend Riley Sectional field.
“You’ve got to get your people in scoring position on Thursday night, then you fight the battle on Saturday. I will know on Friday how we’ll possibly do, but until then I have no idea,” said Duckett.
“Those things are hard to predict. I would not have known what the girls were going to do; I would not have predicted that. I suspect it’s going to be a very, very close meet, and it would not surprise me if it comes down to the last relay.”
Last season the host Tigers beat out second-place Culver Military by a convincing 142 points to easily outpace the field for the team title, and the Eagles are looking for a reprisal after just their second undefeated dual meet season.
The irony is that six individual sectional titles by the girls en route to their program-first team championship complicated the boys’ tear-down process as Duckett had to travel down to Indianapolis in the midst of the final stretch of the boys season.
Add to that some ineligibilities, and CMA’s road got a little rougher.
“The last day of tear-down is when I was at state, and that’s very tricky,” said Duckett.
“We’ve had a couple boys that have gotten into academic difficulty that would have added depth, and I’ve had to pull one of my divers as a sprint freestyler. He’ll do OK, but not the same as the kid that’s been swimming those events.”
While the Eagles should be competitive in a number of events, CMA’s top prospect for an individual title is likely Leopoldo Burguete, a distance running star for the school who qualified for a berth at the cross country state finals after winning sectional and regional championships. He’s looking to replace Culver grad David DeVries at the top of the podium after DeVries beat the field by more than 26 seconds in the distance swim last season.
“It’ll be interesting. I do know this: My kids have always swum faster in the sectional than they have in the dual meet season,” said Duckett. “So I would expect them to be faster than their entry times.”
Plymouth is looking to improve on last year’s sixth-place result at the meet and everyone is seeded within or close enough to the top 16 to earn a trip back to Saturday’s races.
The Pilgrims are seeded in the top eight in all three relay races, and their 400 free relay squad owns the number three seed headed into tonight’s prelims. Tom Serf is seeded fourth in the individual medley, while Brandon Brashere is seeded fifth in the breast stroke and senior Jared Hill is seeded seventh in both the 200 and 500 free races.
“I think everybody has a good shot at making it back in the top 16 just because we’re ready. Everybody is pretty pumped up about this,” said Plymouth head coach Leanne Senter. “Our relays are all seeded in the top eight so that bodes well for us. I think we’re just going to have a stellar meet.”
With most swimmers already reaching their season goal times at the Northern Lakes Conference meet, sectionals are more about just going out and racing than hitting times.
“We’ve been talking about staying focused, taking care of themselves in taper,” Senter said. “All it’s about at this point is racing. You go as fast as you can Thursday night and then you come back Saturday and you go a little bit faster.”
Bremen’s small squad has little chance to compete for a team championship at the fast Riley race. But several individuals in IM and backstroke-specialist Nolan Filchak, sprinter Joe Zeltwanger and breaststroker Stuart Schmeltz.
“Hopefully we can get the team built up in the next couple years, but the guys we do have are good swimmers. They have talent, we just need some more guys in here,” said Bremen head coach Meredith Scott.
“Our best shot will be Nolan. It’s going to be tough for him, but he has a shot.”