THE ACADEMY GOES TO…
Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, February 8, 2020
WARSAW – Saturday’s Warsaw Girls Swim Sectional finals played out pretty much to form per the finishes at Thursday’s prelims.
That worked to the chagrin of the host Warsaw Tigers and to the joy of Culver Academy.
Trailing by less than a half-dozen seed points coming into Saturday’s finals, Warsaw needed to make some moves somewhere or catch a break with the Academy slipping somewhere. Almost true to form, the meet played out nearly as it did on paper, with Culver Academy holding off Warsaw, 398-386, to win its first team title since 2016.
Warsaw started the meet off very well, earning its one and only state berth with a medley relay championship at 1:55.62. The team of Mariana Malagon, Melissa Deming, Taylor Gunter and Macelyn Marcuccilli got out front and stayed there to win by two seconds over Culver, which chose to load up its freestyle relays instead of the medley.
It was from there that Warsaw head coach Tony DeBrota needed to see some bumps. And while he got them with personal times drops, so did nearly everyone else seeded ahead of his Warsaw lanes.
“It’s nice to see that we were still able to get someone to state,” DeBrota said. “I know the girls wanted to get that 200 relay as well, but it just shows how quick this sectional has gotten. We’ll see what is going on in Indianapolis, but we’ve got another week to work and see what we can do to get better.”
Warsaw’s 200 free and 400 free relays both were runner-up, the 200 at 1:45.25 and the 400 at 3:57.60, but both trailed Culver for both the points and the state spot. Culver’s 400 relay team posted a 3:43.78 and 200 a 1:41.12, both without a sweat with ace Autumn Baumgartner blazing as anchor.
Baumgartner locked up two individual titles, cruising to a state cut time in the 50 free at 23.85 and also hitting the state cut in the 100 free at 52.11, announced as a Culver Academy school record.
Culver added a regional diver to the list of those moving on, Isabelle Ahlenius taking second to move to Tuesday’s regional competition.
“This was going to be a battle, and we knew it coming in,” DeBrota said of matching up with Culver. “We knew from the dual meet we had with them this season that they had some really good swimmers, and we likely weren’t going to beat people like Autumn Baumgartner. We knew they would have something left for sectionals, and it was going to take a lot to beat them. They got us in a couple spots I felt like we could have made a move, but that’s just good competition.”
Manchester’s sister duo of Halle and Josie Briner were sensational. The two combined for four titles, Halle starting off the individual events with a 2:00.01 winner in the 200 free and later taking the breaststroke at 1:09.56. Josie followed her sister in taking the individual medley at 2:16.10 and won a close butterfly with a 59.46, edging Culver’s Qianning Zhang but eight-tenths.
Rochester’s Makenna Beall wrapped up a state berth with her 5:30.13 winner in the 500 freestyle and Columbia City’s Lauren Liston backed up her top prelim in the backstroke with a comfortable 1:03.46 championship.
DeBrota, while disappointed his team fell short in the standings, did see plenty of fight in some of his swimmers. Deming was second in the breaststroke and third in the 500 free, Gunter was third in both the IM and fly and Gracie Scholl was fourth in the 100 free.
“Props to Culver,” DeBrota said. “They had some very fast girls going very fast today. They got it from us this time, hopefully we can come back and get it back next year.”
Tippecanoe Valley didn’t have a ton of swims Saturday, but did see a couple solid outputs and a regional diving berth.
Elaina Dishon moves on in diving, taking fourth with a 303.95 series. She will compete along with champion Grace Ulrich of Pioneer (412.20), Ahlenius and Logansport’s Laine McLochlin at the Penn Diving Regional Tuesday night.
Olivia Livengood wrapped up her swim career at Valley with two fourth-place finishes, in the IM and the butterfly. Shayleigh Honeycutt shed the disappointment of just missing out of the breaststroke finals Thursday to win the consolations at 1:18.54, which would have been good for seventh in the meet on Saturday.
“The program she has, she is very comfortable with it,” said Valley head coach Tom Alexander of Dishon. “She executed about every dive as well as you could. She did well.”
Added Alexander, “Olivia had a really good day. The whole month of January she was dealing with a shoulder injury and was trying to stay off of it. She was able to drop three seconds today from her fly during the season to this week. That’s pretty amazing for her to do that given where she was.”