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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, January 11, 2020

Warsaw’s Nick Bazzoni and Concord’s Brayden Sollars race to the finish of the breaststroke Saturday afternoon. (Photos by Mike Deak)

DUNLAP – It became a matter of fortitude. Both Concord and Warsaw were swimming for a chance at a championships Saturday morning, and every point mattered.

Concord would find enough points from its lane winners along with B and C scores to outpoint Warsaw, 97-86, to lay claim to the regular season boys swim title. The Concord girls had absolutely no trouble in dismantling Warsaw, 143-43, to wrap up runner-up positioning in the NLC.


Warsaw’s Zach LaLonde won the 500 freestyle.

Plenty of shuffling of lineups and all the fun that competitive team swimming creates in January was on display Saturday in the boys competition. Coaches Tony DeBrota of Warsaw and Tom Johnson of Concord were hard at work not just worried about event wins, but whether their second and third swimmers could score premium points. The NLC round robin title was on the line, and with prospect of taking the lead into the championship tournament in three weeks, it was worth the white boarding.

Concord won seven of the 12 events, doing much of its damage in the middle of the meet. Coming out of the break, Concord won three in a row with Hayden Gill in the fly (55.85), Will Harris in the 100 free (49.78) and Tommy Brunner in the 500 (5:03.96). Brunner also had a big win in the 200 free earlier in the meet (1:50.85).

Concord opened with a 1:40.80 in the medley relay and started the morning off with a 215.25 winner from Ethan Smith on the diving board.

By the final 400 free relay, Concord had wrapped up the meet up nine but went ahead and posted a 3:24.99 winner, a full eight seconds better than Warsaw and quite a statement given the gravity of the meet for both sides.

“That’s how they beat us, taking those extra points,” DeBrota said. “That’s what we wanted to do, steal some points here and there. They mixed up their medley and caught us off guard a little. We’re still looking at winning titles, though. We want to win the NLC real bad. We’ve got three weeks to figure it out.”

Concord was able to match Warsaw in four of the five Tiger wins, taking second place to counter the points, and added seven third-place swims.

“I really like having this type of competition coming out of Christmas vacation,” Johnson said. “We knew coming in that we had events they weren’t as good in, and likewise with them. In a meet like this, you want to find ways to balance it out a little more in your favor, and we just found a few more ways to do that. Our men raced their hearts out, and snuck out a couple extra points.”

Warsaw kept itself alive as long as it could with some big swims from its frontline. Grant Knight was a double winner, taking the IM (2:02.89) and continuing to headline the breaststroke (1:00.42), looking to repeat as the NLC breaststroke champion. Michael Ray was the 50 free winner (22.83) in what was a clean sweep with Mel Littlefield and Jacob Monesmith second and third. Ray also was second in the 100 free. Zach LaLonde was first in the backstroke (58.07) and second in the 500. Warsaw also won the 200 free relay at 1:31.22.

“What made this meet so exciting was we kept right with them and showed we can go toe-to-toe with them,” DeBrota said. “A lot of strategy is involved when our top two tiers are battling like that. We’re definitely going to have to hide our cards a little coming into the NLCs.”

Concord finishes the round robin 7-0, Warsaw at 6-1. Warsaw can still win a share of the NLC pot with a tournament by winning the NLC Championship tournament.


Warsaw’s Taylor Gunter competes in the IM.

Where the boys competition came down to the final third of the meet, the girls races were largely owned by Concord swimmers.

Concord won all 12 events, took second in 11 more and the Tigers managed just six individuals inside the top three, and none of the Warsaw relays cracked a top two spot.

The Minutemen, finishing 6-1 in the NLC, kept themselves alive for a title split with Northridge (7-0) by exhibiting eight different individual winners against the Tigers.

Among the winners for Concord were Grace Brenneman in the 200 free (1:58.12), Marissa Prough in the IM (2:22.50), Kiran Stauffer in the 50 free (25.18) and breaststroke (1:15.42), Brooke Farnham in diving (255.25), Bella Sponseller in the fly (1:02.69), Gabby Sponseller in the 100 free (57.84), Ella Lantz in the 500 free (5:23.13) and Audrey Lantz in the backstroke (1:04.00).

Concord swept all three relays, taking the medley (1:58.65), 200 (1:43.48) and 400 (3:57.92).

“We have a lot of depth and a lot of quality athletes and a freshman class that’s really good,” Johnson said of his girls team. “We’re going to be in one of the fastest sectionals in the state, but our focus is on the state meet at this point. We know Northridge is what they are, and they have the inside track to the conference and sectional titles. Obviously we want to go after those as well, but we are trying to look at the bigger picture. We can be a bigger team at state, and we are starting to see that materialize with meets like today.”

Part of the point scorers for Warsaw included Taylor Gunter, who was third in both the IM and butterfly, Melissa Deming and Macelyn Marcuccilli second and third in the breaststroke, Mariana Malagon third in the 100 free and Rachel Doyle third in the backstroke.

“We kinda expected this today with the girls,” said DeBrota, whose girls team finishes the NLC 4-3 overall. “Concord is loaded, and what’s scary with them is they are really young. And to think, Northridge is also loaded. What we told our girls is this is what state swimming looks like. You have girls all over the place who are going to compete for spots at state. How do we stack up against that? Granted, we’re in a different sectional, and that’s our focus, but for NLCs, now they know.”

The Northern Lakes Conference Girls Championship is next weekend at Northridge, the prelims Thursday and final Saturday. The boys championship the weekend of Feb. 1 at Concord.

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