Lady Panthers just a splash better
Standing alongside the pool deck after wrapping up the 400-yard freestyle relay, the Corydon Central girls’ swimming team couldn’t contain their excitement in anticipation of hearing the final team scores.
When ‘328 points’ accompanied the words ‘first place,’ members in the Lady Panthers’ section shared hugs and wide smiles, knowing they edged out rival North Harrison for the Mid-Southern Conference title. Soon after, the Lady Panthers, along with first-year head coach Matt Hamblen, leaped in the New Washington High School pool last Wednesday to celebrate in grand fashion winning the MSC.
Two years ago, Corydon Central won the MSC by one point over the Lady Cats. Then last year, North Harrison took back bragging rights with a more comfortable 25-point margin. The 2019 version was decided by three points as the Lady Cats scored 325.
‘I didn’t think we were going to pull it off, but we were able to do it,’ Corydon Central’s Melissa King, said.
North Harrison had the edge over Corydon Central earlier in the season when the two tangled at the same meet. Hamblen said he had to do some maneuvering with his lineup to give North Harrison a run.
‘I knew from the beginning of the year this was going to be close,’ he said. ‘(North Harrison coach) Andy (Pappano) has some great athletes on his team. Going head to head this season, we couldn’t touch them. Going into conference, I had to make some changes to make sure we got all three relays.’
Of the 11 contested races, Corydon Central claimed the top spot in seven. To prove the Harrison County dominance within the MSC, North Harrison had three additional wins.
The relays, it turns out, were key.
Opening with the 200-medley relay, Corydon Central was nearly nine seconds clear of North Harrison at the final touch. The Lady Panthers sent out Erica Wood, Gracie Saulman, Emily Wiseman and King for the winning time of 2:04.95.
King, who went on to place first in all four events she entered along with Saulman, had a challenge awaiting in her next relay. In the 200-freestyle relay, the Corydon Central team of Gracia Swords, Jaylee Rowland, Wiseman and King won in 1:55.76. King then caught her breath quickly and returned to the pool in the next event, the 100 backstroke.
King had enough energy to hold off Scottsburg’s Megan Hardin for first place, swimming in 1:11.24.
‘It was really hard,’ King said of the turnaround. ‘I knew we really needed the win, so I tried to pull through for the team.’
In the backstroke, North Harrison’s Alex Shaffer was third while Jessica McComas was fourth for the Lady Cats. North Harrison also was second in the 200 free relay.
Similar to King, Saulman had little turnaround before the final race. Saulman, previously a state qualifier, easily won the 100 breaststroke in 1:11.64 seconds. She was followed by a host of locals with Morgan Purser (North Harrison) second, Swords third, Carly Hayse (North Harrison) fourth and Ava Burden (North Harrison) fifth.
After exiting the pool in the breaststroke, Saulman went to the back of the Lady Panthers’ line to swim the anchor leg of the meet-ending 400-freestyle relay. Josie Striegel, Rowland and Wood set the pace for Saulman as the quartet turned in a time of 4:20.19. They were well ahead of runner-up Scottsburg, which edged out North Harrison by less than half a second.
‘We did amazing in our relays,’ King said. ‘We cut time in all the relays and worked really hard together.’
King also swam first in the 100 butterfly (1:10.42) and was followed by Wood in second place. North Harrison’s Alex Shaffer and Brooke Comer took third and fourth, respectively.
The 200 individual medley was all Saulman, who swam all four disciplines for a time of 2:14.76. Purser was behind her in second, while Wood was third.
‘I coached Gracie’s mom many years ago, and I’ve told Gracie she is every bit as good as her mom. Her mom was a phenomenal swimmer in her own right,’ Hamblen said. ‘You have kids like Melissa and Gracie who are going to help us out. I can’t take a whole lot of credit for them, but they are a lot of fun to coach.’
North Harrison came away with three individual winners. Maddy Marinc claimed two of the victories, swimming to first place in the two longest freestyle events. She won the 200-yard free in 2:15.70, outlasting the Corydon Central fleet of Swords (second), Rowland (third) and Lily Bowsman (fifth).
Marinc later had no problem cruising ahead of the field in the 500 freestyle, finishing in 6:12.39, 28 seconds ahead of the runner-up. Bowsman swam third in the event, while North Harrison’s Lilly Wiseman was fifth.
North Harrison’s Comer was the quickest swimmer in the 50-freestyle sprint. In a tight finish, Comer touched the wall in 28.51 seconds. Corydon Central’s Emily Wiseman was third, while North Harrison’s Josie Hayse was fourth.
‘The win was an overall win by everyone,’ Hamblen said. ‘I told them that each of them had to do their part. Every point counts in close meets, (and) every swimmer scored. I could not be more proud. They knew what they had to do to get the win, and they went out and took it.’
There was plenty of support for the Lady Panthers with homemade posters and loud cheers encouraging swimmers at the turn wall.
‘We have been harping on technique all year long,’ Hamblen said. ‘One thing has been the turns, making sure they are in a good streamline position coming off the turns and working on their starts. They’ve been working hard at it, so I was pleased.’
An influx of young swimmers has helped as well.
‘We added a lot of freshmen this year, and they are pretty good,’ King said. ‘With the new coach, we have changed some things up a little bit. It’s been a good year so far.’
King said they are excited about competing at the Floyd Central Sectional in a few weeks.
‘We have several swimmers that can make it to finals,’ she said. ‘That makes sectional exciting.’
The boys’ MSC is on the line tomorrow (Thursday) at the YMCA of Harrison County in Corydon, starting at 6 p.m.
The girls’ swimming sectional will take place Thursday, Jan. 31 (swimming preliminaries), and Saturday, Feb. 2 (swimming consolations and finals along with diving), at Highland Hills Middle School.
Girls’ team scores: 1. Corydon Central 328, 2. North Harrison 325, 3. Scottsburg 185, 4. Salem 127, 5. Silver Creek 100, 6. Charlestown 99.
Individual results: 200 medley relay ” 1. Corydon Central (Erica Wood, Gracie Saulman, Melissa King, Emily Wiseman) 2:04.95, 2. North Harrison (Maddy Marinc, Morgan Purser, Alex Shaffer, Brooke Comer), 3. Silver Creek; 200 free ” 1. Marinc (NH) 2:15.70, 2. Gracia Swords (CC), 3. Jaylee Rowland (CC); 200 IM ” 1. Saulman (CC) 2:14.76, 2. Purser (NH) 2:36.22, 3. Erica Wood (CC); 50 free ” 1. Comer (NH) 28.51, 2. Allie Schmidt (Scot), 3. Wiseman (CC); 100 fly ” 1. King (CC) 1:10.42, 2. Wood (CC), 3. Shaffer (NH); 100 free ” 1. Megan Hardin (Scot) 1:04.14, 2. Rowland (CC), 3. Wiseman (CC); 500 free ” 1. Marinc (NH) 6:12.39, 2. Makayla Barger (Scot), 3. Lily Bowsman (CC); 200 free relay ” 1. Corydon Central (Wiseman, Rowland, Swords, King) 1:55.76, 2. North Harrison (Purser, Josie Hayse, Comer, Marinc), 3. Scottsburg; 100 back ” 1. King (CC) 1:11.24, 2. Hardin (Scot), 3. Shaffer (NH); 100 breast ” 1. Saulman (CC) 1:11.65, 2. Purser (NH), 3. Swords (CC); 400 free relay ” 1. Corydon Central (Rowland, Josie Striegel, Wood, Saulman) 4:20.19, 2. Scottsburg, 3. North Harrison (Shaffer, Alexis Blessinger, Carly Hayse, Josie Hayse).