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Zionsville Times Sentinel

Last year may have been the beginning of a golden era for the Zionsville girls swim team.

The Eagles capped off their 2005-06 season with a team sectional championship, their first since 1993. After the meet, then-senior Evan Connolly spoke of the hope that the sectional victory would be the start of a “legacy” for Zionsville swimming.

“The juniors next year are just going to be a strong, strong, leadership-wise team,” Connolly said.

Those juniors are now seniors, and there are 13 of them who will swim for Zionsville this winter. That means upperclassmen will comprise one-fourth of the 48 athletes on this year’s Eagles swim team.

“(This is) the largest girls team we’ve ever had here,” said Zionsville coach Scott Kubly.

What’s fortunate for the Eagles is that many of those 13 girls are experienced swimmers. Five of them (Brittany Coy, Katie Lee, Louisa Mattingly, Alaura Ruterbories and Jennifer Wimmer) swam in the championship heat in at least one event in last year’s sectional.

“I can remember when they were in seventh and eighth grade (swimming) in the (Zionsville Swim) club, and they were wanting to be on the high school team right now,” Kubly said. “They were actually the first large group that I probably ever had that came in and really (made) an immediate impact.”

It helps that this year’s senior class is driven in addition to being talented. Ruterbories said back in 2003 (when she was in eighth grade) that an ultimate goal for the Eagles was to beat Carmel — the same Carmel that has won every IHSAA girls state swimming championship since 1987.

A goal like that may take a few years, but the swimmers are working hard now, especially the seniors.

“They worked their tails off every single day, whether we were doing something in the weight room or doing some (abdominal) work or medicine balls,” Kubly said. “It’s nice to have (13) of them that are driven as much as they are.”

There are seven juniors and 12 sophomores listed on the roster. Some of the 10th-graders were varsity swimmers as freshmen, such as Mackenzie Berger, Rachel Bewley, Elizabeth Mercer and Lexie Stewart.

The freshmen class makes up the largest part of the roster, with 16 students. Kubly said most of those 16 are club swimmers, which means they already have competitive swimming experience.

“The best thing about this is the majority of our freshmen coming in are going to pretty much make an immediate impact and really help our team,” Kubly said. “Our club kids, they kind of know what to expect.”

That’s not to say there won’t be some adjustments. Kubly said that many of the club swimmers are used to long meets that can take up an entire weekend. High school meets don’t last nearly that long.

“Our dual meets against Noblesville and Avon will be done in an hour-and-a-half,” Kubly said. Those meets will be girls only, as the boys do not begin their season until two weeks after the girls. After that, the swim season is co-ed up until the girls sectional meet, which begins Feb. 1.

The shorter meet time will be an adjustment the freshmen will need to make.

“It goes much faster,” Kubly said. “They don’t have as much time in between events as what they have at a club meet.”

As for some of the older members of the team, Kubly said they started planning this year’s season at the end of last year’s season.

“One of the things a lot of them said at the awards banquet last year (was), ‘I’m ready for next year, now,’” Kubly said. “There was a group of sophomores that came to me on the first day of school and said, ‘We’ve been talking this summer, and we want to win sectional four years in a row.’ But Kubly also wants the Eagles to be aiming higher than just winning the team sectional.

Zionsville will be aiming for some individual championships. The Eagles won the team sectional last year because they had so many athletes finish in the top six of their respective events. That earns points for the team.

But Zionsville did not have any individual sectional champions. That’s significant because the only swimmers guaranteed to advance to the state meet are sectional champions and those who beat a state standard time in an event.

After that, athletes can only move on to state if their time in an event is one of the fastest non-winning times in Indiana. The Eagles did qualify two relay teams for state last year. But they had to wait until the day after the sectional final to find out that they were going to state.

“You want to be good at sectional. A sectional championship is awesome,” Kubly said. “But let’s take it to the next level. Let’s get some people that qualify for state instead of hoping that we actually get called down to state.

“That would probably be the ultimate big goal of the year: Let’s have a sectional champion, or let’s get somebody that will swim a state cut, and we automatically go instead of having to wait until sometime on Sunday afternoon to determine whether or not we’re in or not.”

But Kubly said he’s not going to put pressure on the swimmers, especially not at the beginning of the season. He said the main goals for now are for the athletes to work hard and enjoy the ride — the pressure can wait until the Hoosier Crossroads Conference meet (Jan. 13) and sectional.

“Between now and then, (we’ll) see what we can do,” Kubly said. “I have a feeling that some of these (younger) kids are really going to surprise us. I really believe that. I think it’s going to be an incredible year.”

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