It’s a good thing judges weren’t present to score Zach DeWitt’s entry into the Franklin Community High School pool late Saturday afternoon.
The first-year Grizzly Cubs’ coach hit the water backside-first, the 24-year-old’s intentionally shoddy form overshadowing for a split-second the fact DeWitt was fully clothed.
Franklin moments earlier had snapped Center Grove’s 27-year string of consecutive boys sectional championships, winning the day’s final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, to slip past the Trojans, 430.5 points to 427.5.
“That was the first time I’ve been in this pool. Unfortunately, it was with my clothes on,” said DeWitt, his hair and clothes a soggy mess. “When I scored it out before prelims, it was dead even (with Center Grove). We had some big relay swims.”
The 200 freestyle relay saw the Grizzly Cubs’ quartet of Adam Destrampe, Daniel Rice, Kevin Stahl and Clayton Culp touch the wall first in a time of 1:27.74 with Center Grove a close second at 1:27.91. Franklin’s 400 free relay utilized the talents of the same four swimmers — just in different order — to win going away in 3:16.41.
In a day filled with outstanding individual performances, it would be difficult to top Destrampe, a sophomore who also placed first in the 200 freestyle in 1:42.01 and the 500 free in 4:38.11.
Center Grove’s victorious 200 medley relay foursome of Dan O’Brien, Austin Bell, Jake Eckert and Chase Bettner spawned a pair of double winners.
Eckert, a senior, won the 200 individual medley in 1:55.81 and collected a sectional title in the 100 butterfly in 51.60 seconds. Bettner, meanwhile, dominated the sprint freestyle events, the sophomore winning the 50 in 21.98 and the 100 in 47.33.
Other winners from Johnson County programs include O’Brien in the 100 backstroke (53.12) and Indian Creek junior Levi Brock in the 100 breaststroke (58.89). Center Grove senior Josh Carmichael took second in 1-meter diving with 355.70 points to be the county’s top finisher in that event.
Overall, though, the day belonged to the Grizzly Cubs.
“Center Grove swam fast, and I wish them the best of luck at State. But after 27 years of them hoisting that trophy . . . it’s amazing,” said Franklin senior Klayton Harmon, who placed eighth in the 200 IM and ninth in the 100 breaststroke. “Coach DeWitt knows our potential and doesn’t expect anything less than our best.”
Longtime Center Grove coach Jim Todd for nearly three decades had a longstanding habit of joining his athletes on the podium afterward. Another February, another sectional team championship.
Saturday was a new day with a new champion.
“Franklin did a great job. I was very impressed with those kids,” said Todd. “Coming into today, from what we could gather we were 23 points behind. I was proud of our whole team and how our kids focused and stayed after it like that.”
Though thrilled at the final outcome, DeWitt was quick to praise his predecessor, former Franklin girls and boys swim coach Brett Findley.
“Brett is the one who set the standard so high. Without him building that culture we don’t have a chance today,” said DeWitt. “He built the program. He baked the cake and today was the icing.”
As someone who early in his coaching career took celebratory plunges with his athletes, Todd offered one bit of advice to the Grizzly Cubs before departing.
“He said, ‘Congratulations and good luck at state,’ “ said DeWitt. “Then he told my boys to throw me in the pool.”
No need. DeWitt went willingly.