The area’s girls swimming season kicks off Saturday morning with Columbus East hosting Bloomington North.
The Olympians will be trying to replace one of the top swimmers in school history in Cortney VanLiew. VanLiew, who was a state qualifier in the 100-yard freestyle as a sophomore, now is playing volleyball at Florida Gulf Coast.
Meanwhile, Columbus North also will have to replace a pair of state-qualifying relay swimmers in Darby Coles and Alex Nusawardhana. The Bull Frogs girls open the season Nov. 20 against Franklin.
North will look to improve on third-place finishes in both the Conference Indiana meet and the North Sectional in Logan Schaefer’s first year with the program.
“I think with the girls team being on the younger side, they saw a lot of success that the seniors had,” Schaefer said. “Our returners and our new swimmers are looking to challenge for that sectional title this year against Bloomington South and even score more points than we did this year at the state level.”
Sophomores Betsy King and Olivia Morlok swam on the state-qualifying 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams. King is a sprint freestyler for her individual events, while Morlok does the distance freestyle and 200 individual medley.
Sophomore Erica Samuel is another distance freestyler and has had a solid offseason. Senior Kaitlyn Niebrugge returns in the 100 backstroke and 50 freestyle and junior Abbey Landini is back in the 200 IM.
Also returning are senior Lauren Mackey and junior Rachel Gutman in the distance and IM events and junior Madison Sandlin in the sprints. Freshmen Riddhi Garg, Vaikhari Nalole and Adeline Rush will look to make an immediate impact.
“I think the girls are shaping up really well,” Schaefer said. “A lot of our young swimmers from last year are coming back much more experienced. They’re very excited to build on that success they had last year.”
The Bull Frogs have eight divers, all of which are relatively new to the sport.
“We have a lot of new faces on the diving side of things, and each one of those girls is excited about earning a spot and contributing for the team,” Schaefer said. “Lots of new divers means lots of new talent, lots of new opportunities for girls to learn new dives and contribute.”
Olympians coach Jill Arnholt has a larger-than-usual team this year with 36 girls on the squad.
East finished fourth last season in both the Hoosier Hills Conference and the North Sectional.
“They’ve been working all year,” Arnholt said. “They worked through the summer and preseason, so I’m looking for a real positive year. We want to move up in conference and sectional, and with the work that they’re putting in, I see some good things, so hopefully, we’ll make those moves.”
Seniors Whitley Eicher and Lizzy Frazier were part of East’s top relay teams last season. Eicher also swims the breaststroke, butterfly and IM, and Frazier does the sprint freestyles and backstroke.
Sophomore Jennifer Utterback enjoyed some success in the distance freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke events. She will fill a third relay spot, but Arnholt is still looking for a fourth.
“It will be moving people around to see who fits in and works best there,” Arnholt said.
Senior diver Maggie Gregory is back after sitting out last season. Junior Quinn Phillips also is back after not swimming last year and could swim the breaststroke and 200 freestyle.
Other top returners include juniors Maddy Ping in the distance freestyles, Olivia Hoeltke in the IM and distance freestyles and Morgan Meier in the breaststroke.
“We have some freshmen, but they’re very experienced,” Arnholt said. “They’re all trying very hard, and I’m more excited this year than last year because I’m not having to teach them the basics. They’re a lot farther along.”
The Panthers have 19 girls, which is more than in the past few years.
Junior Hailey Brown was state qualifier in diving after missing her freshman year, when she had feeding tube in because of a stomach ailment. She returned last year to win the Floyd Central Sectional and lead Jennings to a fourth-place team finish.
“She’s been healthy,” Jennings assistant coach Bill Dillon said. “She got in the weight room and has been attacking the weights pretty hard and has been working with her diving coach (Kim Shepherd). She’s throwing dives now that she wasn’t able to throw last year because of her strength, and she’s excited about that.”
Top returners include senior Sarah Webster in the sprint freestyles and butterfly, senior Sierra Bott in the backstroke and IM, seniors Tara Thormin and Jalea Millon in the sprint freestyles and backstroke, junior Fizzie Kirchner in the freestyles and backstoke and sophomore Leah Harriman in the breaststroke. Freshman Paige Hoffman is the team’s top butterflier.
The Cougars have only one returning swimmer this season, but that swimmer is a quality one.
Sophomore Rachel Sabotin is back after qualifying for state in two events. The Columbus resident finished 10th in the 500 freestyle and 17th in the 200 freestyle.
Sabotin had a big offseason. She finished seventh in the Junior Nationals open water 5K and won the 15-and-over girls 5K in the Indiana Swimming Open Water Championships.
The 2017-18 Columbus East and Columbus North girls swimming schedules:
Saturday;Bloomington North;10 a.m.
Tuesday;at New Albany Relays;6:30 p.m.
Dec. 5;at Shelbyville;6 p.m.
Dec. 7;at Jennings County;6 p.m.
Dec. 9;at Shelbyville Relays;11 a.m.
Dec. 16;New Albany;1 p.m.
Dec. 27;at Mooresville Invitational;8 a.m.
Jan. 4;at Bedford North Lawrence;6 p.m.
Jan. 6;at Bloomington North Diving Invitaional;9 a.m.
Jan. 9;at Madison;6 p.m.
Jan. 13;HHC meet;1 p.m.
Jan. 18;Seymour;6 p.m.
Jan. 20;Jeffersonville;11 a.m.
Jan. 23;Greensburg;6 p.m.
Nov. 25;at North Central;10 a.m.
Nov. 30;at Seymour;5:30 p.m.
Dec. 2;Center Grove;10 a.m.
Dec. 5;Columbus East;5:30 p.m.
Dec. 9;Columbus North Relays;9 a.m.
Dec. 16;Christmas Classic at IUPUI;8 a.m.
Jan. 4;Bloomington North;6 p.m.
Jan. 6;at Bloomington North Diving Invitational;9 a.m.
Jan. 11;Franklin Central;6 p.m.
Jan. 20;Conference Indiana at IUPUI;9 a.m.
Jan. 25;Oldenburg Academy;6 p.m.