When Crawfordsville swim coach Kevin Hedrick needed big swims during Saturday’s girls swim sectional he turned to his relay teams. In what was yet another thrilling meet between the Athenians and county rival North Montgomery, it was CHS who went 3-3 in all three relays to secure its first sectional title since 2019 with 394 points to the Chargers 371. Fountain Central placed fifth with 213 points while Southmont took ninth with 106.5
CHS got things started with the team of Ellie Walker, Guinevere Schmitzer-Torbert, Marie Hesler and Melanie Dowd winning the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:54.48. The 200 freestyle relay team of Maesa Horton, Sophia Melevage, Hesler and Schmitzer-Torbert swam a 1:41.57 and in the final meet of the day in the 400 free relay Horton, Walker, Dowd and Melevage took first with a 3:46.13 to secure the sectional title.
“It’s almost impossible to lose as a team if you go 3-3 on those relays because they mean so much to the overall scoring,” Hedrick said. “That’s something that I really keyed in on and if there was an opportunity to win em all we’d take it. We held some girls out during the prelims on Thursday just to see what kind of competition we’d be facing. That allowed us to mix and match and it’s a risk that we took and thankfully it paid off. Kudos to all of our girls because it’s been a difficult year for many of them, but we stepped up as needed to when we needed to the most.”
All six of those girls in Walker, Hesler, Horton, Melevage, Dowd and Schmitzer-Torbert now will get the chance to swim under the bright lights of the IUPUI Natatorium on Friday at the IHSAA State Finals prelims. Hesler will also swim in the 500 freestyle as she was the sectional champion with a time of 5:31.50
Hedrick also took some time to credit the Chargers who have provided the county with great match ups this year when they two have gotten together. CHS got them a county, but the Chargers came back to win the Sagamore Conference and the Athenian Invite. CHS made sure to even the score on Saturday with the sectional crown.
“Win or lose I love to watch good racing and that’s what it’s been this year when we’ve gotten together,” Hedrick said. “It’s fun to have this local competition and we both have been on both sides of some bigs wins this year.”
North Montgomery will send three girls to the state finals as senior Annabel Anderson was the sectional champion in the 50 and 100 freestyle. Sophomore Dusty Robinson earned the sectional title in the 100 backstroke with a time 1:00.84 while fellow sophomore Kylie Sankey swam a 2:00.60 to win the sectional crown in the 200 free. Arguably the most exciting race of the day came in the 50 free with Anderson as she held off Cville’s Maesa Horton by five one-hundredths of a second with a 24.97. Anderson swam a 55.12 in the 100 free.
While Charger cwoach Erin Yeager and her team was hoping for a sectional title, she’s still very happy with how her team performed.
“They stepped up in such big ways and it’s tough when you do your absolute best and still come up just short,” she said. “They put their heart out there and knew it was going to be a battle. So many girls had amazing swims and I’m still very proud of all of them. For Annabel shes gets to cap off what’s been a phenomenal career at IUPUI and Kylie and Dusty both get to experience this for the first time. I’m so excited for all three of those ladies to swim on Friday.”
What softened the blow a little bit for the Chargers was after the meet, the sectional coaches voted Yeager the coach of the year. With her team around her in celebration, it was an emotional moment for Yeager. The award is more than deserving after the Charger girls have had a season that many will remember for a long time. While Yeager never wants the spotlight to be on her, she talked about what the award meant.
“I told them that they make me look good, and my girls responded with no you make us look great,” she said. “That was a pretty sweet moment to have with my team. It took a little of the sting away from not being able to have that team title.”
Fountain Central had special moment in the meet as senior Mary Rice punched her ticket to the state finals with a thrilling win in 100 breaststroke holding off Cville’s Schmitzer-Torbert by four-tenths of a second with a swim of 1:10.32. Rice will be the first Mustang to swim at the state finals since Brooke Nine back in 2017.
“Mary is a delight and loved by everyone she comes into contact with,” Mustang coach Bonnie Nix said of her senior. “She has been nearly undefeated this season and has pushed herself to drop time almost every race. Her leadership and encouragement to her other teammates is shown by how much these girls united this season supporting each other to do their very best. The race itself was intense and the reaction on her face and the tears shed by her teammates, coaches, family, and myself was overwhelming. To have been a part of Mary’s swimming career has been a privilege.”
All 10 area athletes will now swim at 6 p.m. Friday at the IUPUI Natatorium.
North Montgomery and Fountain Central also will send a pair of divers to the regional as the Mustangs Peyton Hocking was the runner-up with a scored of 297 and the Chargers Annabelle Verduin placed third with a score of 282.70. Verduin and Hocking will compete Tuesday at the Plainfield regional.