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GIRLS' PREP SWIMMING: Lady Panthers shooting for another region championship (11/20)

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By John Groth

Mavi Sampaio is just as confident, if not more, that the Elizabethtown girls can win another Region 3 title.

With all the depth returning, their coach thinks they’re headed for a repeat.

“I think we’ll win the region title,” Sampaio said. “We have everyone back. With State, we’ll try to be top eight at State.”

After winning its first region title in 20 years, Elizabethtown will take aim for its second straight and try to start a run like it had during the 1980s and ‘90s.

The Lady Panthers graduated one of their top swimmers and State scoring leaders in Emma Coakley. Now a University of Louisville freshman, Coakley earned four top-12 finishes, two in relays, at State and also recorded two second-place finishes in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly at region. They also lost freshman Kaya Winchell, who finished 10th in the 200 free and 13th in the 100 free at region, because she went back to being home-schooled.

But they have tons of top talent returning.

Sophomore Manuela Sampaio earned a region title in the 100 breaststroke and recorded two top-seven finishes in the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley at State. Sophomore Mary-Charlotte Pepper won the 500 free at region and finished 15th at State.

Manuela Sampaio also swam with Hannah Godfrey and freshmen Mariana Sampaio and Madeline Rich on the region champion and record-setting 200 medley relay. Godfrey finished third in the 100 breast at region and 12th at State. Mariana Sampaio placed second in the 50 free at region and 19th in the 100 fly and 26th in the 50 free at State. Rich placed 23rd in the 50 free and 100 backstroke at State.

Senior Ashley Hartlage, who finished 14th in the 100 back at region, also scored points for Elizabethtown last season and Mavi Sampaio expects her to do well in that event and the 200 individual medley, which she’s swam the past two years, again.

Most of those girls swam with the Dolphins over the summer, so Mavi Sampaio expects even more success out of them. He hopes four other veteran swimmers – seniors Brittany Stokan (breaststroke and fly) and Hartlage, junior Erikka Gaines (free and breaststroke) and sophomore Emileigh McKee (IM and fly) – can follow suit.

“The top swimmers, the Dolphins swimmers, will still score a lot. What we really need is these swimmers here to step up and improve their places from last year,” Mavi Sampaio said. “We had a couple swimmers from this group who scored last year and hopefully will score again. So Emileigh McKee, Brittany Stokan, Ashley, Erikka Gaines – she swam, she didn’t score last year but hopefully she will score this year. So those are the four, I would say, can improve from last year.”

Elizabethtown will also get a boost from freshman Marianna Godfrey, who comes from St. James. Godfrey has swum with the Dolphins and will likely compete in backstroke and distance freestyle events.

Seniors Hannah McCandless, Mariah Ruiz and Natalie Miller and juniors Danielle Lee, Jesse Giles, Linzey Miller, Shelby Joy and Veronica Dvorjak make up the rest of the team’s upperclassmen.

Sophomores Brittany Hope and Anne Cecile Pepper and freshman Morgan Joy round out the rest of the high school class. Eighth-grader Lane Ryan, seventh-graders Madeline Blankley, Regan Tindall and Savannah Kingery and sixth-graders Anna Hayes and Kathryn Noland make up the rest of the team.

JOHN HARDIN/NORTH HARDIN/CENTRAL HARDIN. Coach Sharon Garcia has been busy just trying to keep track of swimmers, but she’s got more than a handful of strong girls.

John Hardin’s Katherine Bellware could be at the top. She will likely compete in the 200 free, 500 free and 200 IM.

She’ll also swim on the Lady Bulldogs’ 200 medley relay and possibly the 200 and 400 free relays, along with Alexis Legaspi, Madison Pils, Rhiannon Duvall or Alexi Newell-Omhundro.

Bellware placed ninth in the 200 free and 500 free last year at region.

“Katherine is really good. She swims for the Dolphins on a regular basis,” Garcia said. “She’s a really good distance swimmer and keeps getting better. She placed well in region and has improved a lot since. More time in the pool makes a big difference.”

Garcia also thought middle-schooler Nicole Webster could make an impact for John Hardin.

While Bellware is swimming her normal strokes, Central Hardin’s Sammie Summers is changing hers for a relay. Summers, who has mainly swam freestyle and backstroke, will become her team’s main breaststroker in relays.

“We lack in the breaststroke and she’s the best in it,” Garcia said.

Summers finished 43rd in the 100 back and 49th in the 50 free at region last season.

Junior Kaitlyn Heuser could also be a key swimmer for the Lady Bruins.

Two of North Hardin’s main swimmers could be Destiny Tanner (freestyle/200 IM) and second-year member Katrina Curtis (100 backstroke/freestyle).

FORT KNOX. In their preseason meet, the Fort Knox girls made an impression on second-year coach Jonas Sosa.

They’re already at a faster clip than a year ago.

He even double-checked times and calculated their rate is 3 percent better.

“Good things for what I’m seeing,” Sosa said. “We were on the cusp last year with the girls. Now I think they’re going to do a nice job of getting to State.”

The Lady Eagles have 11 members on this year’s team, including four returnees. Sophomores Maria Rogers and Emily Kiphuth and eighth-graders Shannon Brown and Katie Kilgore lead the way. Entering her third season, Brown is returning after tearing knee ligaments last year. Rogers is also in her third year, while Kilgore and Kiphuth are in their second seasons.

They’re joined by junior Sabrina Wicker, sophomores Katie Peterson and Monica Smith, eighth-grader Miriam Smith and seventh-graders Lauren Cushing and Natalie Rogers.

Peterson is a transfer from New York, Cushing came from Texas and the Smith sisters are from out of the country. Wicker is the only swimmer starting from scratch.

“The new swimmers who transferred from other places said they’ve never swam this hard before, but they’re getting so much better,” Sosa said.

Sosa hopes the 200 free and 200 medley relays can advance to State and, if possible, the 400 free relay, too.

“The bonding that this team has, it’s really neat to watch that at the meets and the way they interact with each other and it’s like they like to be around each other,” Sosa said. “The kids themselves said they want this to be a drama-free zone, ‘we want no drama’ they said. For teenagers to say that makes you excited as coaches to see what it’s going to be like.”

MEADE COUNTY. Coach Andy Mills expects the Lady Waves to have another State-qualifying relay team.

Senior Bettelee Lambeth and sophomore Hannah King return from last year’s 200 medley relay, which finished seventh at region and 24th at State. Although two more positions still have to be filled because Kelsey English and Kenzie Mills graduated, Mills said he has some strong swimmers to take those roles.

Freshmen Sydnee Haught, Cassie Bock, Kristen Bewley and Hannah Fackler are vying for one spot, while sophomore Darby Stull could take the other.

Bock and Haught set personal bests in the 50 free at Saturday’s Elizabethtown Invitational, while Bock also set one in the 200 free.

Mills said that whole group is sprint swimmers and excels at the 50 and 100 free.

“They kept improving last year and half of them worked on swimming over the summer. They’ve shown improvement over practices and already several have set personal records,” Mills said. “If they don’t make it to State, I haven’t done my job.”

Meade County has plenty of swimmers. Seniors Danielle Thompson, Lillie Ruiz, Aviva Buckey and Tara Beck and junior Cara Caro will provide leadership. Sophomores Jenny Wood and Micaela Ray and freshmen Lindsey Shelton, Megan Montgomery, Kaylin Logsdon, Sarabeth Cox and Ruthie Bauer, eighth-grader Madelyn Givans and seventh-grader Andrea Ruiz round out the team’s roster.

John Groth can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or jgroth@thenewsenterprise.com.