NEW ALBANY — Over the past few weeks of competitions, and practices, the coaching staff for the Columbus East boys swimming and diving team have noticed a shift.
The bonds between the athletes have grown tighter and stronger.
While not all of East’s swimmers hit the times they’d hoped, the Olympians put together a solid effort to finish fifth of eight schools at the Hoosier Hills Conference meet on Saturday at New Albany.
Floyd Central won the HHC for the second straight year by totaling 375 points, followed by Bedford North Lawrence (219), Jeffersonville (202), Seymour (156), East (118), Jennings County (106), New Albany (105) and Madison (51).
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“It was a real team effort,” East coach David Fribley said. “The team has developed together. Mark (Owens, assistant coach) has done a fantastic job with the new kids. When they’re out there, they care about how each of their (teammates) do.”
Top-12 individual finishes, and top-eight relays, scored points on the afternoon. HHC champions were named all-conference while runners-ups earned honorable mention status.
In the opening event, the Olympians’ foursome of Griff McGaha, Ryan Singer, Zack Statler and Tanner Hatton combined for 1-minute, 51.13-seconds to place fourth in the 200-yard medley relay. In the next event, the 200 freestyle, Evan Wieneke took eighth (1:59.84), while Mason Curry took 11th (2:05.78) for East.
Singer clocked 2:14.45 for 10th in the 200 individual medley. For the 50 freestyle, McGaha clocked 23.90 for ninth and Chad Kelly was 13th in 24.85.
Fribley said that Kelly had a very strong race in the 50.
In the diving well, East’s DJ Rhodes scored 313.65 points for fourth overall while Jennings’ Cameron Mills was eighth (278.50). The 100 butterfly saw Statler take 11th in 1:03.44.
In the 500 freestyle, Wieneke (fourth, 5:23.59), Justin Borowski (10th, 5:43.24) and Mason Curry (12th, 5:49.81) all dropped major time on their swims.
McGaha, Hatton, Singer and Wieneke swam a combined 1:39.34 for fifth place in the 200 freestyle relay. McGaha followed the relay up by placing sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:01.15).
The last individual event saw Singer finish fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.42) for the Olympians. Statler, Hatton, Hayden Herbert and Wieneke concluded the meet by finishing seventh in the 400 freestyle relay (3:48.41).
“We had some really good swims from the young kids,” Fribley said. “I think most of the older kids were a little disappointed in themselves because they had really high expectations for this meet. For some reason, the times just didn’t happen for them.
“They said that they were so tired that it was hard to get that time to drop. We’ve been swimming hard in practice all year long, but have been doing really, really well. I know they were all fired up and ready to go, but they were tired. That’s not bad at this point in the season. I think they need to keep that in mind and not get too down on themselves.”
Owens said that the Olympians have made big strides during the season.
“I’m really proud of the way these boys have been working all year,” Owens said. “There have been a few meets where maybe the score did not show it, but we won to us. We’ve come a long way from November. I think we surprised a few teams today.”
Jennings’ day was highlighted by Peyton Moore’s repeat as champion of the 50 freestyle. Moore swam a 22.42 to take top conference honors.
“I’m just thankful that God blessed me with this talent,” Moore said. “It really means a lot. It’s an incredible feeling. The start was on point, and I took one breath in that entire 50. The turn and kicks were critical. My coaching staff really helped me with all of that.”
Moore also finished runner-up in the 100 freestyle, timing 50.08.
The Panthers’ Nathan Applegate, Daniel Hoffman, Jesse Wallace and Louden Feltner combined for 2:04.41 for eighth in the 200 medley relay. Trey Hundley’s time of 2:14.45 placed sixth in the 200 individual medley.
Clocking 1:03.35, Evan Dubben was 10th in the 100 butterfly for the Panthers. Hundley placed ninth in the 100 backstroke (1:03.15)
The group of Beau Harriman, Dubben, Hundley and Moore timed 1:36.26 for third in the 200 freestyle relay.