Injuries and COVID-19 quarantines did not spare Crawfordsville’s boys’ swimming and diving team for the 2020-21 season.
And when the Athenians needed someone to step up, the Horton brothers didn’t hesitate.
Freshman Whitman Horton and his brother, junior Marshall Horton each won a pair of individual events and relays at the Montgomery County meet, Sagamore Conference, and IHSAA Sectional.
The duo is the 2020-21 Journal Review Co-Swimmer of the Year.
“It certainly did surprise me,” Marshall said. “By no means did I expect to be a conference or sectional champion. I did have to step up, and I think that set the path for me and opened up a hole that I went through. The opportunity was there, and I seized it.”
Marshall Horton was a role swimmer as a sophomore on Crawfordsville’s 2020 Sectional title team, and naturally became a star this past season.
“We were very fortunate there that Marshall stepped into that role,” Crawfordsville coach Kevin Hedrick said. “We are just very fortunate to have a team with a lot of really good kids that have that ability to crossover and develop into a sprinter or a distance swimmer either one.
“He really has made that choice to be in that key role. I won’t ever say it’s surprising. I think it’s a matter of kids buckling down and deciding that’s who they want to be and what they want to do. We are just here to give them a recipe and provide them with the skills that they need to get there.”
At the county meet, Marshall won the 100 freestyle in 50.45 seconds, the 100 breaststroke in 1:06.39 and swam on both the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams.
At the Sagamore Conference meet, the junior was on the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay winning teams and won the 100 freestyle in 47.99 seconds and the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.17.
His success continued at the sectional meet, helping the Athenians to the team title. He won the 100 freestyle in 48.09 seconds and the 100 breaststroke in 59.82 seconds, while being a part of the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay.
For younger brother Whitman though?
The rookie success was completely expected, it just depended on what events it would come in.
And coach Hedrick spread Horton’s role around even in the big meets. At the county meet, the freshman was a part of the 200 medley and 200 freestyle winning relay teams, while he won the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.63 seconds and the 100 backstroke with a time of 56.54 seconds. At the Sagamore Conference meet he won the 100 butterfly in 53.59 seconds, the 100 backstroke in 53.54 seconds and was a part of the 200 medley and 400 freestyle winning relay teams. At the Sectional, Horton was a part of the 200 medley and 200 freestyle winning relay teams and won the 500 freestyle in 5:05.09 and the 100 backstroke in 55.01 seconds.
“I definitely came into the season knowing I would fill in the gaps with really strong classes, and me and the freshmen just did what needed to be done,” Whitman Horton said. “It was fun and enjoyable to do different stuff.”
And even with very few holes to fill from a successful 2019-20 season, it was the best-case scenario for Hedrick.
“It’s kind of a dream for a coach really,” he said. “That’s what you hope throughout your season and that’s what we are trying to do is develop the young kids to get up there and hopefully be a player by the time they’re a freshman. It’s a big testament to his dedication and willingness to learn and do a lot of really good things as a youngster.”
Crawfordsville’s young star says he has looked up to the classes ahead of him for guidance, including Marshall’s talented junior class.
“It was a really good season despite everything that was happening, and the team really came together through setbacks and all. It was a really positive environment to be able to do what we did,” he said. “That junior class, it will be hard to watch them leave. Because they are a very big leadership presence and just very talented and great swimmers. They are what drives the team.”
Marshall was excited about once again swimming with his brother and is looking forward to their final year together as Athenians next season — where the goals and expectations will exceed the results from this past season.
“My sights are still set on the 100 breaststroke record here at Crawfordsville, and obviously the relay records are a big priority next year,” Marshall said. “The ultimate goal is to just keep working. We are going to miss some of our seniors, who are a great value to the team, but most of the core is coming back.
"And If you look up at the middle school record board, you see Whitman Horton with very few exceptions. So thought he may not say it, I think he’s got his sights set on a few of those high school records."