TERRE HAUTE —
When Terre Haute South’s Grace Padget competed in the IHSAA girls swimming state finals as a junior last season, she thought she had a good chance to bust out of the preliminaries into Saturday’s final round in the 100-yard backstroke.
But her time (59.70 seconds) ended up a hair too slow and she placed 23rd out of 32 competitors. Looking back, she admits nerves may have gotten the best of her.
“I’m ready this year,” Padget promised as she prepares for her state-finals return in the 100 backstroke (seeded eighth), 100 butterfly (seeded 17th), 200 medley relay (seeded 19th) and 400 free relay (seeded 22nd) this weekend in the Indiana University Natatorium at Indianapolis.
Also going from the Wabash Valley are South junior Katherine Senseman, Terre Haute North sophomore Maria Kline and South Vermillion senior Payton Thomas.
Swimming preliminaries will take place tonight, with the top 16 out of 32 in each event moving on to Saturday’s consolation and championship finals.
The IU-bound Padget will bring a 100-backstroke time of 57.05 after winning the sectional last Saturday at Avon.
“I’m really excited,” she told the Tribune-Star this week. “But it’s not too much pressure because I know that I’m not done with my career. I will be done with my high school career after this, but I know I have a lot more to look forward to, so I’m excited.
“I want to make the championship finals [in the 100 backstroke]. I know that I can drop time because I wasn’t feeling well before my 100 back[stroke] in the sectional.”
South coach Jeff Thompson remembers a conversation he had with Padget two months ago when she emphasized that she really wanted to be ready for the state finals this season.
“I fully expect her to be swimming on Saturday,” he said. “She has a great shot in the 100 butterfly too. She is prepared for this meet. … Grace’s head is in a good spot. It has been for a long time.”
Senseman also is entered in the 100 backstroke as the No. 15 seed, even though she finished third in the sectional, as well as the 50 freestyle (seeded 24th).
“The 50 free is a start and a turn,” Thompson stressed in the simplest of terms. “Not much swimming goes on. Katherine’s athletic and anything can happen Friday night [in the preliminaries]. There’s a lot of nerves involved. You can be the fastest seed and be a nervous wreck. That can be everything in a 50 free. You’ve just got to be a cool customer.”
Senseman thinks she can improve her time in both of her individual events.
“The sectional atmosphere is great, but the state is on a whole ‘nother level,” she explained. “So I think I can feed off that energy and go a lot faster.”
Members of South’s 200 medley relay squad, in order, are Padget (backstroke), Katherine Senseman (breaststroke), sophomore Rachel Senseman (butterfly) and senior Hannah Stelflug (freestyle).
“We’re going to have to step up and really be on our game to make it back Saturday [for the final 16],” Katherine Senseman admitted.
“Just in relay exchanges, I think we can drop some time,” Thompson mentioned. “But they’ve got some work to do to make it back on Saturday.”
As for the Braves’ 400 free relay — which consists of Katherine Senseman, sophomore Ashton Dillon, Rachel Senseman and Padget — Katherine Senseman pointed out that this foursome barely missed the school record in the sectional. Their time was 3:39.99.
“We want to get that record,” she insisted. “We will be pushed. There will be a lot of good competition. Hopefully, we’ll get that record and make it back [to Saturday] as well.”
Meanwhile, North’s Kline is seeded 23rd in the 500 freestyle and South Vermillion’s Thomas is seeded 32nd in the 50 freestyle.
“I think to swim a little faster would be a good goal … and just see what happens,” North coach John Newhouse said about Kline. “All we can control is what we swim. I think she’s going to do really well.”