Local swim teams had a chance to measure their progress at Saturday’s 6th Annual Candy Cane Classic, and the athletes didn’t disappoint.
Owensboro and Owensboro Catholic took the top spots, while Daviess County and Apollo also had positive outings as teams. Many individual swimmers from all teams also posted career bests, a good sign as they are only midway through the season.
End goals and expectations vary for each of the four teams, but the coaches all said they are pleased with the progress so far and look forward to continuing to improve as the season continues.
Head coach Brad Schmied wasn’t expecting a win Saturday, as the goal was simply to be further along than they were at this point last year. The team won the overall trophy behind a first-place girls’ finish and third-place boys’ result — and it follows a surprise win at the Hopkinsville meet earlier this season.
“Right now, we are well ahead of where we were last year,” Schmied said. “What I do is use the times from last year at certain meets as a marker, and we’re well ahead of where we thought we would be right now. We’re really in midseason to end-season form right now. It’s going to be really exciting to see where we end up toward the end of the year.”
The team is led by a large core of girls who swim year round in Julia Smith, Samantha Phillips, Addison Callis, Abby Warren, Paige Neal and Kara Bane Luckett.
Though they’ve been winning their events with Owensboro for several seasons, it’s the rest of the swimmers that are helping exceed team expectations.
“Even if you go out from (those girls), it’s a full team,” Schmied said. “Our team is very strong. Those girls have carried the team for years, and now we’ve got a good supporting cast.”
Schmied is hoping the girls’ team can finish near the podium in state competition, with a couple of individuals earning top-10 awards.
“Right now we’re on track for that,” he said. “We just have to get back to training, focus a little bit, and stay on target.”
The boys’ team earned first place Saturday, and combined with fourth place for the girls, Owensboro Catholic was runner-up in the overall results.
After a handful of girls left the team last season due to graduation, head coach Erica Crabtree said she’s happy with the performance so far. She said the team maintained their composure to finish at the top.
“I feel like we’re sitting pretty good where we are right now — girls as well as boys,” she said. “Our kids held up under pressure. There were a lot of nerves, but getting a big meet like this under our belt will help us in the meets to come.”
Crabtree said the end goal is to get several swimmers to state, but the coaching staff asks the swimmers to set expectations each week as far as where they want to be. Saturday was a good measurement for the team, and several individuals posted personal bests.
Crabtree said everybody has to contribute and help out in order to win a big meet, but there are a handful that she’s relying to lead the team.
“Katie Hampel is a senior, and she’s been a strong presence at the state meet for the last several years,” Crabtree said. “I look for big things from her. We have several boys to be looking out for.”
Crabtree said she expects Cort Hobelmann to break some school records, and Joe Hayden should qualify individually in his events. Other boys helping lead the swim team are Jude Neal, Samuel Clements and Joey Leesman.
Crabtree also has high expectations for Robby Leesmann, a diver who finished second on Saturday.
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams finished in sixth place on Saturday, and head coach Susan Fenwick was proud of the outing.
“Almost all of our swimmers had personal best times in their individual events, and our relays had their best times of the seasons,” she said. “It was a really good meet for us. I saw a lot of improvement. They were very excited because they were dropping times.”
Fenwick’s teams are ripe with underclassmen — only three total seniors and a lone junior — and half of the team are actually middle schoolers.
Usually, the goal is to get as many people to state as possible, but this season the main focus is getting the relay teams to advance. With most of her swimmers only competing during the high school season, Fenwick said it takes some time to get in postseason form.
“Christmas break is a big time where kids can put in a lot of effort,” Fenwick said. “They can really focus on practicing to gain endurance. I have a lot of swimmers who only swim high school, which means their endurance is not very good at the beginning of the year. I’m starting to see that it’s getting better.”
Owen Krahwinkle is the lone boys’ senior leading the team, while long-distance swimmer Lindsey McLellen and Lily Scott — who is looking to make state as a diver for the third consecutive year — provide leadership for the girls.
“All three of our seniors are really good leaders,” Fenwick said. “They help me in practice with the younger kids, helping them learn how to do starts and turns and basic skills they just don’t have yet.”
Other core pieces are eighth-grader Trevor Church and junior Molly Church.
The boys finished fourth and the girls ninth on Saturday, but more importantly most every swimmer showed personal improvement for Apollo.
Head coach William Duncan said since it’s only the second big meet of the year, it was good to see is swimmers have positive outings.
“This was a great midseason meet for us,” he said. “We’ve only had one real meet about a month ago. I think everyone was well ahead of where they were at in the first meet, and that’s where we want to be. We had more lifetime bests than I would have expected, so we’re lining up really nicely.”
Duncan said there is not a specific goal as far as how many swimmers the team is trying to send to the state competition. Rather, he’s focused on helping each person improve and continue to post personal records.
“I want them to finish up the season the best they’ve ever been, whatever that means for each particular person,” he said.
Apollo has a handful of swimmers who have been competing for several seasons, and Duncan said one of the the things the staff is most proud of is the support the team shows for both each other and the competitors.
“We’re really blessed to have seven excellent seniors, most of whom have been with us for six years now,” Duncan said. “The captains Christian Leigh and Emma Stovall are doing a great job and are great leaders. We love the way our team stays together and cheers for each other and for other teams.”