TIGERS START STRONG; CONCORD IN POSITION AFTER SECTIONAL PRELIMS
StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Friday, February 15, 2019
WARSAW — Warsaw’s boys swim team began its pursuit of a 12th straight sectional title Thursday, and so far, the Tigers’ prospects look pretty good.
The Tigers earned 20 slots in the finals at Thursday’s prelims and another five callbacks to the consolation swims. As it was last season, Columbia City emerged as Warsaw’s biggest challenger once more with 16 top eight finishes and another six appointments in Saturday’s consoles.
“We’ve won here since ’08 so we’re hoping to keep the streak going. Coming in, I think I saw about 48 points (difference). I’ll score it out tonight, but it looked like a good meet for us,” said Warsaw coach Tony DeBrota.
“Good meet. Glad we were able to have it without any weather delays,” he laughed.
Alex Cook and Grant Knight both made the finals in each of their four swims, as did Nathan Taylor, Nicholas Bazzoni and Michael Ray.
Cook earned himself the top seed at Saturday’s finals in the 50 free, as well as with the Tigers’ medley relay and 200 free relay squads. He finished second in the 100 free Thursday, just .44 of a second behind City sprinter Charles Varga. Knight earned top finishes alongside Cook in the medley relay and 200 free relay and also touched first in the individual medley and the breaststroke.
Knight has a shot at setting a new sectional record in the breaststroke, where he clocked 57.39 at Thursday’s prelims. He’s already gone faster than the meet record of 56.9 with a 56.39 seed time coming into the sectional meets.
“Hopefully he can get the meet record. The meet record is a 56.9. We’re finally incorporating that this year so hopefully he’ll be able to get his name in on that, but really the big focus is state,” explained DeBrota. “We want to get as many guys to place at state, top 16, as we can. Grant is looking good. We’re hoping for a top eight.”
Taylor made the cut to the finals in the medley relay, 400 free relay, the IM and the butterfly, while Bazzoni and Ray both qualified in the 400 free relay, the 200 free relay and the 200 free, Bazzoni earning his fourth finals appointment in the breaststroke and Ray earning his in the 100 free.
While the Tigers have some solid sprinting, Warsaw’s strength so far has been in the strokes. In addition to the team’s top finish in Thursday’s medley relay, the Tigers earned three berths to this weeken’ds finals in both the butterfly and the breaststroke and another two apiece in the IM and the backstroke.
“It’s nice we’ve got some good sprinters, but we are definitely a team that’s got a lot of stroke. It’s not so much our top seeds — we’ve got good second and thirds — but we do have some good top swimmers per stroke where they’ll be able to help us get a good place at state,” said DeBrota.
While Saturday’s final round shaped into a three-way battle between Warsaw, City and Culver Academies for the team title, Tippecanoe Valley swimmers earned themselves a total of four finals berths and another four berths to the consoles.
Brandon Hoffman set personal records in both the backstroke and the 50 free on his way to top eight finishes in both swims, and he, Mason Stephen, Dakota Prater and Grady McGriff earned another top eight finish in the medley relay. Stephen qualified for a second finals berth in the breaststroke and a consolation swim in the 100 free Thursday, while Prater earned consolation swims in both the 500 and the 200 free for Valley.
“I expected Brandon Hoffman in the backstroke and Mason Stephen in the breaststroke. Also, I expected Dakota Prater to make the final in the 500 freestyle, but he had his goggles break. They’re prescription goggles so he couldn’t see the ends of the pool at all. That really affected his swim. That’s unfortunate for Dakota because it’s his senior year,” said Valley coach Tom Alexander.
“I’m proud of my team. They’re a young team, but you know how young teams are — they turn old overnight. It’s four years of high school. Going into finals, I think we’re going to do really well. We’re going to get some rest because we’ve had a couple really hard practices.”
Saturday’s final round will start with the diving competition at 9 a.m. Swimmers will retake the pool for the finals and console finals at 1 p.m.
“We’ve got a couple guys that can drop the cane a little bit more. We didn’t have too many people cap, though,” DeBrota said. “We got a couple guys that got ninth place, so they’re capped where they are, but a lot of guys have a ton of room to improve. That’s the goal now. We had the point total, now let’s just get that gap a little bit wider.”
Concord is in good position to repeat as sectional champions, landing five swimmers in the pole position as prelims wrapped up Thursday at Northridge.
Kal Findley posted the top effort in both the individual medley and backstroke, and is joined at the top of the psych sheets with Will Harris in the 50 free, Matt Bond in the 100 free and the 200 free relay took honors.
Elkhart Central’s Carter Rief put himself in a good spot to claim sectional titles, leading the field in both the butterfly and breaststroke, and the Central medley relay is out front.
Goshen’s 400 free relay leads the pack in an event that saw many of the teams choose to rest its ‘starters’.
Northridge’s Nick Dibley is the leader in both the 200 and 500 freestyles, but has Wawasee’s Jared Krugman hot on his heels in both. Dibley posted a 1:44 in the 200 to Krugman’s 1:45, and the two went 4:44 and 4:45 in the 500 to set up a pair of juicy showdowns.
Wawasee has plenty of finals representation, with Daegan Kingrey sitting second in the 100 free and fourth in the 50 free, Alex Troutman is seventh in both the IM and breaststroke, Karlson Hand seventh in the backstroke and eighth in the IM, Bryce Knepp eighth in both the 50 and 100 freestyles, Aaron Troutman eighth in the 500, and Jacob Krugman fifth in the breaststroke.
Wawasee has all three of its relays alive for the finals, the 200 second, the 400 third and the medley fifth.
NorthWood’s Jason McNeill broke a 31-year-old school record in the 200 freestyle, winning his heat with a time of 1:50.70 to qualify fifth for Saturday’s finals. McNeill also qualified for the 500 finals by landing fifth. NorthWood’s 200 and 400 free relays are both sitting sixth.
Diving prelims begin Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at Northridge, followed by the swim and dive finals beginning at 1 p.m.