TERRE HAUTE —
Beginning his 14th season in charge of the girls and 11th with the boys, Terre Haute South swimming coach Jeff Thompson expects big things from the Braves this high school season.
In their season-opening dual meet Tuesday at Greencastle, they posted victories of 136-42 for the boys and 129-54 for the girls.
Next up for South is the seventh annual Hall of Fame Classic today and Saturday at Franklin Community. Other schools competing will be Bloomington North, Castle, Chesterton, Fishers, Fort Wayne Snider, Penn, Zionsville and Franklin Community.
“It’s a great meet for us,” Thompson told the Tribune-Star. “It’s almost like a State Preview meet for some of our more competitive athletes.”
Regarding his boys team, Thompson thinks it could finish in the top three of the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (MIC) in 2012-13.
“Carmel and [Indianapolis] North Central, I think, will be tough to beat,” he acknowledged. “Center Grove is tough too … but we’re going to be very good.
“We’ve got a deep boys team with a lot of versatility, a lot of great kids from great families. It’s going to be a great season. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m eager to see just how much these boys can accomplish.”
Thompson named a few of his key returnees — junior Christian Wilhelm (specializing in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle, among others); sophomore Dalton Mitchell (100 backstroke, 100 freestyle and others); senior Collin McCord (100 butterfly); and senior Alex Davis (diving).
Wilhelm was a member of South’s state-finalist 400 free relay squad, McCord was a member of its state-finalist medley relay team and Mitchell was a member of both last season, while Davis placed 22nd in the state.
Davis is being heavily recruited by NCAA Division I colleges, Thompson added.
“He spent the entire summer at the IU Diving Camp,” the Braves’ veteran coach pointed out. “He’s very talented. He slipped on the board and hurt his foot against Greencastle the other night, but he’ll be fine. We look for him to have a great season this year.”
Thompson said there will be at least one supremely talented freshman on his squad: Chandler Bray, younger brother of former South standout Addison Bray.
“He’s really good,” Thompson emphasized. “He’s enjoyed a lot of success as a club swimmer and we hope we can continue to see that type of progression at the high school level.”
Thompson anticipates the younger Bray doing well in the 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke and 200 IM.
Turning to the South girls, Thompson mentioned senior Grace Padget (100 backstroke school-record holder, likely to do some 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle as well) as one of the team leaders.
“She has continued to improve year after year, which is difficult for a young lady,” Thompson said of Padget, who recently committed to attend Indiana University as a swimmer next year. “Grace has had a spectacular career of swimming at South.”
In addition to the 100 backstroke, Padget competed on the Braves’ state-finalist medley relay foursome last season.
Among South’s other key returnees are junior Katherine Senseman (200 IM, 100 backstroke, sprint freestyles); sophomore Rachel Senseman (Katherine’s younger sister, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke, 200 and 500 freestyles); senior Hannah Stelflug (50 and 100 freestyles, 100 backstroke); sophomore Lillie Padget (Grace’s younger sister, 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke, sprint freestyles); and sophomore Ashton Dillon (sprint and middle-distance freestyles, 100 breaststroke).
“The girls team, as a whole, we’ve got a lot to figure out,” Thompson admitted. “We’ve got a lot of good swimmers, but they’re all good in the same events for the most part. And you can only swim three in an event. … For the first time in a long time, we’ve got a lot of experimenting to do.”
Thompson thinks the Terre Haute North vs. South girls meet will be close, while his boys should be good enough to contend with Avon for the sectional title.
Important dates in the future include the MIC championships Jan. 5 at Carmel, girls sectional Jan. 31 and Feb. 2 at Avon and boys sectional Feb. 14 and 16 at Plainfield. State finals will be Feb. 8-9 for girls and Feb. 22-23 for boys.
Terre Haute North
Coaches Mike Williams (boys) and John Newhouse (girls) like some of what they see from the North swimming teams this season.
The Patriots served as hosts of the North Quad Dual last Saturday, with each squad going 0-3 against Mount Vernon, Lawrence North and Jeffersonville.
In the Mount Vernon Invitational on Nov. 17, North’s girls placed fourth out of 10 schools.
Junior divers Kelsey Thomas and Carley Young are among the North girls’ key returnees, Newhouse said.
“I think they’re going to be a nice one-two punch for us,” he assessed, adding that senior Nicole Heath should help in that event. “Diving will be one of our strongest events.”
Other potential point scorers are seniors Alexandra Nichols (IM, breaststroke) and TaPring Goatee (sprint freestyles) and sophomore Maria Kline (distance freestyles).
Freshmen who should make an immediate impact are Heidi Mattick (freestyle, breaststroke, IM) and Morgan Breitweiser (distance freestyles, backstroke), Newhouse noted.
“This is the largest team we’ve had, numbers-wise,” the Patriots’ coach continued. “There’s a lot of potential to do well. We have a lot of newcomers, so we’ll have to see how everything turns out at the end.”
North’s girls and boys, who were slated to compete Thursday at South Vermillion, will be back in action Saturday in the Patriot Distance Invitational with three other girls teams and two other boys teams.
Speaking of the North boys, Williams admits that he wished his group could have fared better in the North Quad Dual.
“We didn’t do as well as we wanted to do,” he reflected. “We had some boys who had great swims. But that early in the season, we don’t really look at team scores. In the first half-dozen meets of the season, I’m just looking at my lineup … finding out where it gels.”
Williams figures senior Matt Priester (distance freestyles, IM, breaststroke) will be a big part of that gelling process.
“I look forward to great things from him,” the North coach mentioned. “I’m hoping he can make it to the state meet this year.”
Other key returnees include junior Courtland Jones (formerly a distance swimmer, but now a sprinter and middle-distance swimmer); senior James Welch (described by Williams as “an all-around great athlete” who is improving in the sprints), junior Will Hubbs (backstroke); and senior Stephen Koos (breaststroke).
Divers Garrett Humphrey, a junior, and Josh Dadson, a senior, are back to lead that crew for the Patriots.
Williams named three “immediate impact” freshmen who came up through the Terre Haute Torpedoes program. They are Forrest Gatrell, Andrei Ghejan and Sam McCarter, who are described as being capable in every event, although McCarter most likely will specialize in distance.
“I think those three, in a lot of ways, represent what I would like to see the future teams here be like — guys who like to train, guys who are very competitive and disciplined,” Williams noted. “They fit the mold of what a swim coach is looking for.”
This is Doug Tilford’s 16th season of coaching West Vigo’s girls, but it is his first for guiding the boys after previous coach Dave Cooper retired.
Key returnees for the boys include juniors Michael Vermillion (200 freestyle, 100 butterfly); Jacob Whitford (100 butterfly, 500 freestyle); Alex Solliday (100 backstroke); and Tyson Tolerson (100 breaststroke, diving).
Tilford said he has two seniors, but both are first-year swimmers.
“We’ve got 21 boys on the team, one of the bigger teams we’ve had in a while,” he pointed out. “They’re working hard and looking to do pretty decent. We’ll be a contender in the WIC [Western Indiana Conference].”
Tilford also mentioned sophomore Zack Lebrun, a sprint-freestyler who has improved considerably since last season, and freshman Jacob Weir (100 breaststroke) as potential significant contributors.
The male Vikings won at North Vermillion 137-39 in their opener Nov. 20. They’ll have to wait a while for Meet No. 2 — Dec. 13 to be exact — when they play host to South Putnam, although there’s a chance another meet will be scheduled before then.
Meanwhile, West Vigo’s girls lost to South Vermillion on Nov. 15 and won at North Vermillion 67-59 on Nov. 20. They also may have to wait until Dec. 13 for their next meet against South Putnam.
Tilford rattled off the names of a few returnees — sophomore Amanda Bridgewater (butterfly, IM); senior Elizabeth McGlone (backstroke, IM); senior Kayla Akers (sprint freestyles, butterfly); and senior Stephanie Knoepfel (butterfly, sprint freestyles).
The Vikings’ coach noted that junior Kylee Sereno, a first-year diver, is the team’s only diver.
“We’ve got 11 girls on the team, so it’s kind of a small group,” Tilford explained. “We’ve got four seniors. Mainly because of our [roster] size, we’re going to focus on improving personal-best times.”