Cubs smash record in historical sectional win

Franklin Community High School coach Zach DeWitt wasn’t quite a year old when the girls swimming team won its last sectional title.

“It’s nice to get that monkey off our back and represent our community in a great manner,” DeWitt said.

The host Grizzly Cubs captured their first sectional title since 1989 in dominating fashion with 521 points Saturday. It was the third sectional title overall for Franklin, which also won in 1988.

Center Grove, which saw its streak of 26 straight sectional titles end, placed second with 360 points.

“We set the bar really high,” DeWitt said. “In some of the races, we failed to get everything we wanted. Greediness aside, we had a great day and a historical day from the school perspective.

“We’re pretty pleased with everything, and onwards to state.”

The state meet begins Friday with swimming preliminaries at 6 p.m. at the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI. The diving prelims and semifinals will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, with consolations and finals at 1 p.m.

Franklin set nine school records and captured eight of 12 events in the sectional. Individual swimming champions and relay champions automatically qualify for the state meet.

“The competitiveness in our sectional gets better every single year,” DeWitt said. “South side swimming is on the rise. We felt like all the girls focused on the process through the year to step up at the big moment.”

Cubs had two freshmen, Carla Gildersleeve and Ali Terrell, who were double winners in individual events.

“It was one of the most fun meets of this season,” Gildersleeve said. “It was fun to watch all the girls drop some great times.”

Gildersleeve won the 200-yard freestyle and 500 freestyle. Terrell took the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.

“We get a lot of points from our freshmen,” DeWitt said. “Quite frankly, we owe this to the girls that have been in the program a few years. They’ve had their share of lumps.

“For them to take over and lead this team in a positive direction, we couldn’t be more pleased.”

The Cubs had two seniors swim in the sectional.

“We have a strong freshman class coming in next year,” DeWitt said. “Hopefully this is one (sectional titles) of many to come.”

DeWitt does not have a specific finish in mind for the state meet, but he does have a plan.

“We were always gearing for next week,” DeWitt said. “Next week is the big show, and the lights are going to be turned up just bit brighter.

“Hopefully, we’re there to shine.”

Franklin sophomore Anna McCahill won the 100 butterfly to return to the state meet. McCahill is the only Franklin swimmer who has experience in an individual event at the state meet. Sophomore Ella Pheifer and junior Abigail Gibson were on a relay team in last year’s state meet.

“The high school state meet was different from anything I’ve ever seen my freshman year,” McCahill said. “I had been to some pretty elite age-group meets during my time swimming club, but the state meet is a lot different atmosphere. It’s overwhelming at some times, especially as a freshman not knowing what to expect.

“I think it will help all our freshmen at state having people here that know what it feels like, and we can give them guidance on how they should approach the coming week.”

McCahill set a school record of 57.59 seconds in the 100 butterfly.

“I would love to get top eight in the 100 butterfly because it’s a goal I’ve had all season,” McCahill said. “It’s what I’ve been pushing for since last year.”

McCahill also was on the winning 200 medley relay team with freshman Jessie Fraley, Pheifer and Terrell. Franklin’s winning 200 freestyle relay team consisted of junior Brenna Pearcy, Gibson, Pheifer and Gildersleeve.

Franklin’s victorious 400 free relay team included Goldersleeve, Gibson, Pearcy and Fraley.

Center Grove senior Peighton Gilbert was a double winner in the 50 freestyle and 100 free.  Indian Creek freshman Alexis Wilhoit won in the 100 backstroke.

Greenwood senior Krista Jones captured the 1-meter diving title. Rachel Smallwood of Center Grove was second. Jorden Wood of Whiteland was third and Madelyn Powell of Franklin was fourth. All four qualified for Tuesday’s Bloomington North Regional.

Whiteland placed third in the team standings with 223 points. Indian Creek and Roncalli were tied for fourth with 190. Greenwood was eighth with 142, and Greenwood Christian was 12th with 24.

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Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.