Saturday’s Girls State Swimming and Diving Meet was one of the fastest in IHSAA history.
While Center Grove did not claim any state titles, the Trojans did break one school record, finished in the top 10 and set themselves up for a promising future.
The Trojans earned 106 points, good for seventh place, at the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI.
A year ago, Center Grove sent only one swimmer to the finals and finished in 13th place in the team standings. This year the Trojans were represented in three finals events.
Sophomore Emily Saugstad was a part of each of those races. She finished seventh in both the 100- and 200-yard freestyle races.
Later, Saugstad swam the first leg of Center Grove’s 200 freestyle relay. Joined by Peighton Gilbert, Amanda Ward and Caroline Sheehan, Saugstad helped the Trojans grab third place behind Carmel and Penn. Their time of 1:35.10 set a school record.
Saugstad, who finished eighth last year in the 100 freestyle, said her experience from her first state meet helped her performance Saturday.
“(This year) was a lot better,” she said. “I got a lot mentally stronger. In my 100 free, I tried my best and dropped time from Friday, so that was pretty cool.”
Center Grove also earned points in four consolation races. The four swimmers, who took third in the 200 freestyle relay, also won the consolation heat in the 400 freestyle relay to place ninth overall.
The Trojans’ 200 medley relay team — featuring Ward, Gilbert, Kaiti Sullivan and Abby Sheehan — finished 12th. And Caroline Sheehan finished 13th in both the 200 individual medley and the 500 freestyle.
It was a fine bounce-back performance for a program that was humbled by last year’s 13th-place finish. The Trojans had finished in the top five overall each year from 2010 to 2012.
Coach Jim Todd said Center Grove built momentum from race to race Saturday.
“It all started back in the medley relay, with them coming back and going faster today than they did (Friday) night,” he said. “That kind of got the ball rolling. All day things just kept getting better and better and better.”
Of Center Grove’s six swimmers Saturday, only one, Kaiti Sullivan, is a senior. Todd had a simple analogy for the returning swimmers’ chances to improve over the next year.
“We’ll give them the ammunition,” he said. “It’s just whether they can load the gun. It’s up to them.”
Saugstad said she and the other underclassmen were prepared to meet that challenge.
“We just push each other. Caroline Sheehan and I were connected at the hip this year,” Saugstad said. “Anywhere you looked, we’d be together, always pushing each other, racing each other, making each other better.”
Carmel won its 28th consecutive team championship, smashing six state records along the way. Each of the finals events Center Grove swam in were won with a state record time. In all, nine new state marks were established on Saturday, tying with 1978 for most records set in one championship meet.
Todd said it was a meet unlike any he had seen in the past.
“I’ve been around a long, long time. And this was by far the fastest girls state meet. It was an unbelievable meet.”
Maddie Gordon faced a tough challenge in the diving competition. The Center Grove junior, who finished seventh as a freshman and fifth as a sophomore, was part of a deep field that returned the top 11 finalists from last year.
Gordon dove well, adding nearly 22 points to her total from 2013. But she was not able to improve her finish, again taking fifth place with 449 points.
Although Gordon was disappointed with some of her scores, she was pleased to be on the podium again given the strength of the field.
“It was pretty tough. They’re great competitors,” she said. “I’m pretty happy.”
Ritter junior Sarah Bacon became the first repeat champion in the diving event since 1990, breaking the state meet record with 546.45 points.