For two decades, the Indian Creek High School swimming and diving team has consistently sent athletes to the IHSAA state finals.
On more than one occasion, athletes have earned podium finishes, including a state diving championship in 2009.
But the one thing the Braves have never done is win a conference championship.
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That’s because Indian Creek’s conference — the Mid-Hoosier Conference — doesn’t offer a tournament for swimming and diving. Or wrestling. Or girls golf.
But that’s about to change.
In the fall of 2016, Indian Creek will leave the Mid-Hoosier and compete in the Western Indiana Conference, a 12-team league composed of Class 3A and Class 2A schools.
The move is expected to solve a host of vexing competition issues for the school’s varsity programs — not the least of which is the opportunity for all of Indian Creek’s team to finally be able to compete for conference titles.
“I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am for our athletes,” said Brad Smith, the swimming and diving coach for the boys and girls teams. “I know this will bring a refreshing change into our program.
“To have an added level of recognition, as well as to have a meet where we have a chance to compete for a team title, will definitely serve as some inspiration for us in the next few years.”
That, in large measure, is why school officials signed off on the move. The comparatively tiny Mid-Hoosier has only six schools. Except for Class 3A Indian Creek, none is larger than Class 2A.
Consequently, too few Mid-Hoosier schools offer swimming or wrestling to conduct a conference meet. At the moment, too few offer girls golf to crown a champion in that sport.
With the move to the WIC, all of Indian Creek’s varsity teams will contend for conference titles. Not only that, all of its teams will finally be in the same conference — including football, which has been a longtime member of the Mid-Indiana Football Conference.
“The advantage is having every sport under one conference, and the advantage of (including) swimming and wrestling, who have never had a conference,” Indian Creek athletics director Justin Ray said. “So for them to actually be able to compete in a conference meet and have the same opportunities that all the other sports have, that was huge in our decision-making.”
Indian Creek football coach Mike Gillin applauds the move.
A longtime proponent of finding a more competitive conference for football, Gillin is confident the WIC — with an even mix of Class 3A and 2A teams — will better prepare the Braves for the postseason.
“It’s great for us. There’s some testers on the schedule,” Gillin said. “Last year it just didn’t work out that way.”
Seldom challenged in the six-team Mid-Indiana Football Conference, of which state power Indian Creek is the only Class 3A team, the Braves blew out every league opponent by double digits last season. Apart from a 15-14 win against nonconference Class 3A Greenwood, the Braves never had their starters on the field in the fourth quarter during the regular season.
Throughout his 15 years at Indian Creek, Gillin has lamented the soft conference schedule routinely hurts the Braves in the postseason.
He expects that will change in the WIC, which is divided into two divisions. Indian Creek will be in the East division with Class 3As Brown County, Owen Valley and Edgewood and Class 2As Cascade and Cloverdale. Class 3As West Vigo, Northview and Greencastle and Class 2As North Putnam, South Putnam Sullivan make up the West division.
The winners of each division will vie for the league title.
“You’re going to get a game going into the (state) tournament that’s going to test you a little bit, which is good. It’s a good thing all the way around for our school,” Gillin said. “From a football perspective, I think it’s cool.
“We’ve been in the same conference for a long time, so it’s kind of a reboot for the football program. I’m excited about it.”
So is Smith, whose swimming and diving teams can finally pursue the one prize that that has never been offered: a conference championship.
“The biggest advantage for us will be to have a highly competitive championship meet to help us fine-tune things heading into the state tournament,” Smith said. “I have always felt that without a conference meet that we missed an opportunity that other schools had. With the tradition of several of the schools in the WIC, it will certainly elevate the level of Indian Creek swimming, if not the entire athletic program, as we will have to step up our game.
“Our athletes have never been able to say they were on an all-conference team or were all-conference. I really believe it will be a source of motivation for us.”
THE WESTERN INDIANA CONFERENCE