On a day the Center Grove girls swimming and diving team paced the field, senior Caroline Sheehan led the way.
Sheehan won two individual races — the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle — and contributed to wins in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays as the Trojans claimed their 26th consecutive sectional title Saturday at Franklin.
“I felt pretty good about my times considering where I am in the season, and that I wasn’t fully rested,” said Sheehan, who will swim at Western Kentucky University next year. “The 500 is looking better than it did last year, so I’m pretty excited about that.”
Sheehan was far from alone in leading her team to a 498 point total, good enough to defeat runner-up Frankin by 66.5 points. Three teammates took part in four event wins.
Juniors Emily Saugstad, Peighton Gilbert and Amanda Ward each swam on both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Ward and Gilbert also took first on the 200 medley relay, along with Abby Sheehan and Gabby Castor.
Saugstad had a standout day of her own, winning both the 200 and 100 freestyles to go with her relay successes. Gilbert won the 50 freestyle, and Ward won the 100 backstroke.
Rachel Smallwood continued the near-sweep of individual titles for the Trojans by winning the diving competition.
All sectional winners advance to for Friday’s and Saturday’s IHSAA State meet at the IUPUI.
Center Grove coach Jim Todd, who has coached all the Trojan sectional championships, said the team’s performance was excellent and that there is potential for the group to excel next week, as well.
“The girls wanted to accomplish some great things (Saturday),” Todd said. “They did a great job and worked hard all year. They had some specific goals in mind, and they exceeded a lot of those. It’s always rewarding when a kid looks up at the clock and I can see they are happy with their time.
“The whole meet was fun because I saw a lot of smiles today. I look forward to seeing what they can accomplish next week.”
There were two events that saw swimmers other than Center Grove team members win.
Greenwood’s Lauren Dalton had the best time in the 100 breaststroke coming into the meet, but after a disappointing swim of 1:12.02 in Thursday’s preliminary round, she had to start in lane seven for the final. When Saturday’s race was over, Dalton thought she had been defeated again but had actually won with a time of 1:08.74, shaving more than three seconds off her time in the preliminary.
“I didn’t have a great Thursday swim,” Dalton said. “I was hoping to get second and qualify (for state), but getting first was just amazing. I looked at lane five (after the final) and thought I’d gotten second, but then I looked at the board and saw I was first, and I just freaked out.”
Dalton, a junior, said she has been swimming breaststroke since her freshman year and set a goal at that point to reach the state meet, which she has now accomplished.
The other non-Center Grove sectional champion was Franklin freshman Anna McCahill, who delivered a personal best time of 58.76 to win the 100 butterfly.
McCahill had the best time in the event coming to the sectional and felt confident about her performance ahead of the final, although she admitted feeling some pressure.
“I had a lot of pressure trying to win as a freshman,” McCahill said. “I knew I wanted it all season and worked for it. I dove in, and my underwater felt really fast.
“I was thinking this will help me flow and keep my hips up and it was going to be a good race, and it was.”
McCahill credited her club and high school coach of the past four years, Zach DeWitt, and his sister, assistant coach Ali DeWitt, with improving her strength and form in the butterfly to the point of qualifying for the state meet.