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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Friday, December 6, 2019

Warsaw’s Maddy Morgan works in the 200 freestyle Thursday night in the dual meet against NorthWood. (Photos by Mike Deak)

NAPPANEE – It was a work in progress for not only an upstart NorthWood program, but also a perennial Warsaw swim outfit. A 126-60 Lady Tiger win and a 121-64 Tiger triumph looked good on paper, but saw a meet full of holes and progressions both sets of coaching staffs found need to focus upon.

Warsaw brought a partial roster to the NorthWood pool Thursday night, leaving some of its top tier swimmers back home to work through a myriad of both in-and-out-of-the-pool needs. The Panthers, on the other hand, were itching to show what it had against a Warsaw program that has had its way in the series over a large part of the last two decades.

“We just wanted to push them, make them a little nervous,” said NorthWood head coach Sheryl Hawkins. “We want teams to be a little nervous when they come in here.”

NorthWood’s Elle Roberts heads down line in the breaststroke.

NorthWood found itself winners of four girls events Thursday, Elle Roberts claiming two of them in the 500 free (5:48.53) and the breaststroke (1:16.97). Andrea Williams also found a top stop in the butterfly, clocking 1:18.85 for the Panthers while Reagan Koble posted a fine 194.15 in diving to open the night’s festivities.

Warsaw countered with a double from Lillian Boston, earning both her wins before the break in the 200 free (2:15.42) and 50 free (27.37), the 50 a Tiger sweep. Mariana Malagon also won two events, leading a Warsaw sweep of the 100 free (1:00.44) and also winning backstroke (1:10.41). Melissa Deming added a win in the individual medley at 2:36.45.

All three of Warsaw’s relays were winners, the Tiger medleys taking max points in a one-two finish. Relays, however, were a point of emphasis for Warsaw head coach Tony DeBrota, who saw plenty of early-season kinks to work out.

“We’ve got to work on our relay exchanges some more,” stated DeBrota. “We have high expectations and with that means we need to have cleaner relays. Our dual meets, it won’t be so much what we do behind closed doors at practice, but what we can do in a performance setting. How can we maximize our performance potential? Meets like this give us an opportunity to look at that.”

Warsaw did bring a host of its talented boys team to Nappanee, and saw them perform well. Zach LaLonde and Michael Ray were both double winners while Jacob Monesmith, Nick Bazzoni and Ian Wihebrink all had individual tally marks.

NorthWood’s Lucas Warren competes in the butterfly.

LaLonde took both the 200 free (1:56.85) and backstroke (1:01.05), Ray the 50 free (23.74) and fly (1:01.42), Bazzoni the IM (2:14.07), Monesmith the 100 free (53.73), and Wihebrink the breast (1:09.91). Warsaw swept the fly and medley relay and also took honors in the 200 and 400 free relays.

NorthWood opened the evening with a sweep of diving, led by Caden Jenkins’ six-dive series that racked up 227.75 points. Skee Mishler had a win in the 500 at 6:59.66.

“This year we feel we are a lot more competitive,” Hawkins said. “They got a taste last year of winning a couple meets and this year you can see it, they really want it. The athleticism is much higher. I was very impressed with both my teams. The diving was great. We’ve had some tough practices in the past couple weeks and it shows. Going out and being right on Warsaw’s heels is huge for our kids. We are showing we belong.”

DeBrota saw Thursday as a chance to test his depth, missing over a dozen from the active roster which included seniors Taylor Gunter and Grant Knight, both with state experience. While the meet saw several swimmers losing goggles, faulting on stroke execution, making late jumps on relay exchanges or just not being ready to go to start an event, the night was a teaching tool for most involved. Coaches included.

“I love having all of these kids, it really is great, we are like one really big family,” DeBrota said. “I care for them, they care for me and my coaching staff and they are there for each other. But it’s virtually impossible for us to make everyone happy all of the time. So in a meet like tonight where we can swim more kids, it’s fun. I love watching them show what they can do. It’s why you coach. We had a lot of kids going after personal and season records. It’s good.”

Warsaw and NorthWood both are scheduled to compete in invitationals this Saturday, Warsaw hosting its own while NorthWood will compete at Goshen.

Warsaw’s Nick Bazzoni swims the breaststroke leg of the Tiger medley relay.

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