Rachel Sabotin had a chance to experience high school swimming this winter, but a little something was missing.

The Columbus resident was one of only two girls on the first Trinity Lutheran swim team. Just two boys were on the Cougar boys squad.

Next year, The Republic Girls Swimmer of the Year hopes to be part of a bigger team at Trinity.

“I’m hoping that since it’s already been a year, and they know how it works now and they’ve seen how well we did, hopefully people will be more interested in it and will be able to commit to it,” Sabotin said. “My goal is to get on top of the podium (at state) and represent my team and hopefully have more than one person at state and maybe even a relay.”

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The lack of teammates with which to train didn’t stop Sabotin from having a big freshman year. She won a sectional title in the 200-yard freesytle, then went under the state-cut time in finishing second in the 500 freestyle.

Then at state, Sabotin finished 10th in the 500 freestyle and 17th in the 200 freestyle.

“I wanted to score points,” Sabotin said. “It was my school’s first year, so I was like, ‘If we can just get some points for my team, that would be awesome.’ So I just swam my hardest, and it was a good outcome. I’m excited for next year because now, I know what it’s like, and I can just really get in there and race.”

The top 16 in each event score points. The top eight make the championship heat and earn a spot on the podium, while swimmers 9 through 16 make the consolation heat.

With the 17th-place swim in the 200 freestyle prelims, Sabotin missed making the consolation heat in that event by three-hundreths of a second.

“I was happy with it, but also I barely didn’t make it back, so that was a little disappointing,” Sabotin said. “But then I just knew I had to get after it in the 500.”

Sabotin swam her best times in both the 200 freestyle (1 minute, 53.10 seconds) and 500 freestyle (5:00.75) in the state prelims. Then, she bettered that 500 freestyle time in the finals with a 4:59.71 clocking.

Her coach, Jennifer Brinegar, wasn’t surprised at Sabotin’s success this season.

“I anticipated her doing very well and not having a normal freshman year because she has a lot of experience with the USA Swimming meets,” Brinegar said. “She has her goals, and she works really hard in practice, so it wasn’t a surprise to either one of us that she did as well as she did. Now, she’s going to reset goals and go from here.”

Brinegar also is Sabotin’s club coach with the Club Olympia swim team. When Sabotin, who was home-schooled until this year, enrolled at Trinity, she sought to start a high school team.

After the school gave approval for the swim team, it needed a coach, and Brinegar came on board. So did the other girl, Lexi Keller, and the two boys swimmers.

“All of my teammates were really supportive, and they did really well, too,” Sabotin said. “I was glad that I started the team because otherwise, I wouldn’t have had that experience.”

At a glance

The Republic All-Area Girls Swimming Team

Rachel Sabotin, Trinity Lutheran: The freshman finished 10th at state in the 500 freestyle and was a sectional champion and took 17th at state in the 200 freestyle.

Darby Coles, Columbus North: The senior finished 17th at state in the 100 freestyle and 21st in the 50 freestyle and swam on the 11th-place 400 freestyle relay and 19th-place 200 freestyle relay teams.

Alex Nusawardhana, Columbus North: The senior finished 23rd at state in the 100 backstroke and swam on the 11th-place 400 freestyle relay and 19th-place 200 freestyle relay teams.

Olivia Morlok, Columbus North: The freshman swam on the 11th-place 400 freestyle relay and 19th-place 200 freestyle relay teams at state.

Betsy King, Columbus North: The freshman swam on the 11th-place 400 freestyle relay and 19th-place 200 freestyle relay teams at state.

Hailey Brown, Jennings County: The sophomore was a sectional champion and finished 27th at state in diving.

Becca Bryan, Columbus East: The senior was a sectional runner-up and a regional qualifier in diving.

Cortney VanLiew, Columbus East: The senior finished third in the sectional in the 100 freestyle and fourth in the 50 freestyle.

Honorable mention

Columbus East: Whitley Eicher, Annie Frazier, Lizzy Frazier, Jennifer Utterback. Columbus North: Karlie Brown, Allison Collins, Kaitlyn Niebrugge, Erica Samuel, Sarah Towsley, Emma Wilson.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.