After heavy graduation losses, coach Zach DeWitt knew experience would not be a strength for the Franklin boys swimming and diving team.
What he didn’t anticipate, however, was a parade of injuries that depleted the Grizzly Cubs still further throughout the season.
But no matter.
Heading into today’s sectional finals, DeWitt has one expectation for the three-time defending champion Cubs.
“Our goal is to win the sectional championship, and anything less than that will be a failure in our minds,” said DeWitt, who said he also expects the meet to be one of the tightest in recent years.
Ranked No. 8 in the coaches poll, Franklin broke Center Grove’s remarkable run of 27 straight championships in 2013. The Cubs have won the past three titles and, after winning Johnson County and Mid-State Conference championships this season, seem positioned to successfully defend their sectional crown.
But it won’t be easy.
Center Grove and Roncalli are expected to fiercely contend. And health, or lack thereof, continues to plague the tournament-host Cubs.
“To be honest, I think this is going to be the closest year in quite a few years,” DeWitt said. “We’ve had a string of injuries and bad luck, and so because of that it’s certainly going to make the margin quite a bit narrower.
“This is probably the best team (Roncalli) has had in probably program history, and Center Grove is always a perennial threat. So we expect a really close meet, far closer than the last couple of years.”
Although winning the team championship is a goal, advancing individuals to the IHSAA State Meet is an even bigger goal. Sectional champions and individuals who beat state cut-off times qualify for state.
For Franklin, the performers include freshman Jacob Destrampe, junior A.J. Rice and sophomore Michael Couet.
Freestyle specialists Destrampe and Rice won two events each at the county meet and were part of two winning relay teams. Couet, breaststroke and individual medley specialist, has been a consistent points scorer all season.
Those swimmers have led an inexperienced team that in many ways has exceeded expectations, as evidenced by winning county and conference championships.
“We’ve got a super-young team. Due to their youth, we were kind of expecting more of a rebuilding project,” DeWitt said. “But by most measures, it’s been a pretty successful season so far.”
Center Grove, runner-up at the county meet, has enough talented swimmers to end on a successful sectional note, as well. Junior Noah Tallman (500 freestyle) and senior Alex Krasutsky (100 breastsroke) won county titles and were part of the Trojans’ county championship 400 freestyle relay.
Although Indian Creek probably lacks the depth to challenge for the team title, the Braves feature potential sectional champions in senior Wyeth Brock, a veteran state qualifier who won county titles in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly; sophomore Nolan Reed, the county champion in the 100 backstroke; and senior Max Murr, the county diving champion.
As for the chase for the team title, DeWitt expects a three-time race. And a close one, at that.
“It’s obviously ours to lose, since we’ve won the last three, but for the first time we do have a little bit of an underdog syndrome,” he said. “Anything less than a sectional championship is a failure in our minds, but with that said, we expect an absolute dogfight for it.”
What: Girls swimming and diving sectional
Where: Franklin Community High School
Diving preliminaries: 9 a.m. Saturday
Swimming and diving championships: 1 p.m.
Admission: $6 single session, $10 season ticket
Advancement: Sectional champions in each event, and swimmers who beat state cut-off times, advance to the Feb. 26 and 27 state meet. The top four divers advance to the Feb. 23 regional at Bloomington North.
Teams: Center Grove, Franklin, Greenwood, Indian Creek, Martinsville, Mooresville, Owen Valley, Perry Meridian, Roncalli, Southport, Whiteland