When the Columbus East girls swimmers take the pool for the Columbus North Sectional beginning tonight, they’ll have a new weapon at their disposal.
Whitley Eicher, who spent almost all of the regular season relegated to junior varsity and exhibition swimming after transferring from North, became eligible for varsity action last week, and she made an immediate impact. The sophomore won the 200-yard individual medley and 100 butterfly to help lead the Olympians to a dual-meet win against Greensburg.
“It was super exciting,” Eicher said. “It was really fun to be back and actually count for something.”
Eicher spent last season swimming for the Bull Frogs and posted a couple of event wins in dual meets. But before the sectional, she was struck by a virus, passed out a couple of times and lost much of her upper-body strength.
This fall, Eicher spent the first 11 weeks at North but transferred to East just before the start of the swimming season. She said the switch was made because she lives closer to East High School and the move helped her family with transportation issues.
But because her family did not change addresses, and the transfer was deemed for “athletic reasons,” Eicher was required to sit out from varsity competition the IHSAA-mandated 365 days, which started with her last meet with North in January 2015.
“She’s been working hard all season and has had to swim in outside lanes and JV and has always done really well with her times,” East coach Jill Arnholt said. “So then when she got the chance to swim against Greensburg, it was really exciting for her and for us.”
Arnholt saw the times Eicher had swam for North and was excited for her to join the top group of Olympians that included state qualifier Cortney VanLiew, along with Brooke Statler, Lizzy Frazier and Raegan Bradley.
“She’s blended in there really well and pushed the other swimmers, and they’ve pushed her, so it’s been a good combination,” Arnholt said. “I’m expecting a lot out of her. She has a good work ethic, and she’s a fast swimmer and she’ll be a real asset to the team. We look forward to what’s to come.”
Eicher said she has loved swimming for former North coach Jim Sheridan last year and for Arnholt this season.
“They have different strengths and wisdom, and I’ve really been blessed to swim for both of them,” Eicher said.
Tonight, Eicher will compete in the prelims of the 200 IM and 100 butterfly and will swim on two of East’s three relay teams. She is seeded fifth in the 100 butterfly and seventh in the 200 IM.
Swimmers with the top eight times from tonight’s prelims qualify for Saturday’s championship finals, while the next eight make the consolation finals. Winners and other swimmers making the state standard Saturday, plus other needed “call-backs” to reach a field of 32 in each event, qualify for next weekend’s state finals at IUPUI’s Indiana University Natatorium.
“The goal has always been to go to state, so I’m hoping to see if I can pull out some fast times,” Eicher said.
What: Columbus North Sectional girls swimming
When: 5:30 p.m. today (swimming prelims), 9 a.m. Saturday (diving prelims), 1 p.m. Saturday (swimming and diving finals
Where: Columbus North High School
Teams: Columbus East, Columbus North, Batesville, Bloomington North, Bloomington South, East Central, Edgewood, Greensburg, Lawrenceburg, Milan, Oldenburg Academy, South Dearborn, South Ripley
Admission: $6 per day or $10 for both days