By JOE LUETKEHANS – As he slickly enters the water to begin his one hundred yard backstroke race, junior student and IHS Boys swimming team captain Christian Henderson has one thing on his mind: winning. The 17-year-old student athlete has been swimming for most of his life, and now that he’s finding himself as top dog on a relatively young team, he must find a way to hold himself and his team together in order to pull off a W for one more season.
Junior Becky Shellenbarger, diving team captain and first-year swimmer, has already made her season successful with several WPIAL qualifying dives early in the season; however, her job isn’t over yet, as it is now her job to inspire and lead her new ranks of first-year divers. According to Shellenbarger, “We have several new divers that are improving very quickly. It’s a difficult sport to master, but once you do, it’s very rewarding.”
After an extremely successful 2015-2016 season last year which ended with the boys’ team’s 12th Consecutive Section Champion win, the newest iteration of the IHS Swimming and Diving team has a lot to live up to. After losing significant talent due to graduation, the almost senior-less team’s junior swimmers must step up this year and be able to bring their A game. Luckily, they have help. The team’s large and talented freshman population makes up a large portion of their ranks this year, which should truly impress Indiana sports fans and residents alike. With new superstar talent such as freshmen swimmers Cole Thome and Parker Fanella, it almost seems as if nothing has been lost at all in the transition from old to new.
Fanella, who is swimming for her first year after many years of YMCA experience, has high hopes both for the team and her own performance by the end of this season, which will conclude with the State Championship meet in early spring. “I am hoping that us girls will be able to get first in our section this year…as for myself, I’m hoping to make it to States.” As a first year swimmer with much to prove, one would think that Fanella would feel intimidated by her expectations, but they would be wrong, “I am not intimidated by being a freshman… My team is comforting and doesn’t make me feel too pressured.”
Although the team is primarily made up of athletes with prior swimming experience, some new members are stepping out of their comfort zones by joining a team for a sport that they have either never tried before, or haven’t participated in in years. Senior student and new team join-ee Justin Kardell has kicked off his season positively by proving to coaches that despite his lack of experience, he’s still a force to be reckoned with in the water. “I was a lifeguard, and almost all of the lifeguards swam and they’re my friends, so I guess I joined because of my friends.” Although he’s barely been in the water competitively in his past, Kardell also has no sense of intimidation in the midst of his first, and last, season. “I don’t feel intimidated that the younger kids are faster than I am, but I do feel like it motivates me to try my hardest.”
Through all of the odds that some may think are against them along with the surprising expectations of past team members, the IHS Swimming and Diving team is blowing everybody’s expectations out of the water. Good luck to the team on the rest of their season, and we at the High Arrow give them best wishes for WPIALS and States!
[Photo by Leo Lezzer]