On the surface, Trinity Lutheran’s 21st-place state finish in the Girls Swimming and Diving State Finals doesn’t seem like an outlandish accomplishment.

But when considering the Cougars were a one-person team, the feat speaks volumes about the performance of sophomore Rachel Sabotin.

Sabotin finished 10th in the 200-yard freestyle, then came back with a fourth-place finish in the 500 freestyle at the state meet to score 22 points.

As a result, the Columbus resident has earned The Republic Girls Swimmer of the Year honors for the second consecutive season.

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Sabotin helped start the swim team at Trinity last year, when the Cougars had two girls and two boys on their initial squad. This year, Trinity had just one girl and one boy.

“I thought it might be harder, but it really wasn’t,” Sabotin said. “It was a lot less stressful this year because we already had a swim team, and we didn’t have to get everything started.”

The Cougars competed in five high school meets during the regular season. Sabotin also swam in two club meets with her Club Olympia team, which is led by Trinity coach Jennifer Brinegar.

Since Trinity does not have a pool, Sabotin practices with Club Olympia at Northside Middle School.

“She’s making really good progress,” Brinegar said. “She has really high goals that she sets for herself. She’s someone who never misses a workout. She doesn’t eat junk food during the season. She takes care of herself. She trains really hard, and I wasn’t surprised that she moved up.”

As a freshman, Sabotin finished 17th at state in the 200 freestyle and 10th in the 50 freestyle. This year, she swam a personal-best 1 minute, 52.08 seconds to take 10th in the 200 freestyle.

In the 500 freestyle, Sabotin swam a personal-best 4:57.20 in the state prelims. She was just short of that, going 4:57.83 in the finals.

“My big goal was to get on the podium, so getting fourth place was really awesome,” Sabotin said. “I was hoping to get on the podium in that (200 freestyle), too, but I was happy with 10th place. That was good for me.”

Sabotin’s top competitor in the sectional in both the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle was Columbus North sophomore Olivia Morlok. Morlok finished 10th at state in the 500 freestyle.

In the offseason, Sabotin and Morlok train together with Club Olympia.

“It’s nice having one of your closest competitors and one of your friends with you at practice every day (in the offseason),” Sabotin said. “It’s a great help, and we push each other and get better.”

Since the state meet, Sabotin has continued training. She has club swimming’s senior state championships this weekend at Pike High School.

Although only one of top 13 in this year’s 500 freestyle at the state high school meet was a senior, Sabotin has hopes of winning a state title in the next couple of years.

“I’m always looking to the top of the podium,” Sabotin said. “That’s the highest you can get.”

At a glance

This year’s The Republic All-Area Girls Swimming and Diving Team:

Rachel Sabotin, Trinity Lutheran: The sophomore won sectional titles and finished fourth in the 500-yard freestyle and 10th in the 200 freestyle at state.

Olivia Morlok, Columbus North: The sophomore finished 10th in the 500 freestyle and swam on the 24th-place 400 freestyle relay and 25th-place 200 freestyle relay teams at state.

Betsy King, Columbus North: The sophomore finished 26th in the 100 freestyle and swam on the 24th-place 400 freestyle relay and 25th-place 200 freestyle relay teams at state.

Erica Samuel, Columbus North: The sophomore swam on the 24th-place 400 freestyle relay and 25th-place 200 freestyle relay teams at state.

Kaitlyn Niebrugge, Columbus North: The senior swam on the 400 freestyle relay team that finished 24th at state.

Riddhi Garg, Columbus North: The freshman swam on the 200 freestyle relay team that finished 25th at state.

Ella Anderson, Columbus North: The freshman was a regional diving qualifier.

Hailey Brown, Jennings County: The junior finished 13th at state in diving.

Maggie Gregory, Columbus East: The senior finished 30th at state in diving.

Honorable mention

Columbus East: Whitley Eicher, Lizzy Frazier, Jennifer Utterback, Marin Wieneke. Columbus North: Karlie Brown, Abbey Landini, Hannah Manlief, Adeline Rush, Caroline Swenson. Jennings County: Jalea Millon.

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