IR swimmers break records, make history at DIAA championships

Date Published: 
March 7, 2014

Coastal Point • Maria Counts: Indian River senior Merrick Kovatch gets ready to dive in at last weekend's DIAA State Championships. Kovatch competed in the 200-meter individual medley, the 100-meter breaststroke, the 200-meter freestyle relay, and the 400-meter freestyle relay.Coastal Point • Maria Counts: Indian River senior Merrick Kovatch gets ready to dive in at last weekend's DIAA State Championships. Kovatch competed in the 200-meter individual medley, the 100-meter breaststroke, the 200-meter freestyle relay, and the 400-meter freestyle relay.Indian River High School’s head swimming coach, Colin Crandel, had one goal in mind heading into last weekend’s DIAA state championships: he wanted personal bests for all his qualifying swimmers.

“It’s not about winning. It’s about personally winning,” said Crandel regarding the IRHS seniors that he has been training since the first year he started the Sharks youth program. “They might come out second or third, but if they hit their best time — they just won. I’m just really proud of them.”

Not only did the boys’ swim team accomplish that goal last Saturday, March 1, at the finals held at the University of Delaware, but coach Donna Smith and the girls’ team went above and beyond in achieving some goals of their own.

“These kids have made Indian River history,” Smith said to put the fifth year program’s accomplishments in perspective. “[They’re] the first female squad to make it to the finals round.”

In what was perhaps the most impressive individual performance for the girls’ squad, freshman Lindsay Grow finished 12th overall in the 100-meter breaststroke, with a time of 1:13.53, breaking the IRHS record that she had previously set herself. She also became the first female Indian River swimmer to qualify for an individual event at state finals.

“I’m just over the top happy,” said an ecstatic Grow, who has her sights set even higher for next year after an already impressive freshman campaign. “I’m definitely going to keep practicing with my club all throughout summer. Hopefully, I should be better next year.”

Grow also teamed up with senior Karlie Smith, junior Marissa Fox and sophomore Lauren McCoy to set a new school record for the 200-meter freestyle relay, clocking in at 1:49.73. The same girls had held the previous school record in the event.

In the 200-meter medley relay, the Lady Indians finished with a time of 2:02.86, with Grow in the backstroke, Karlie Smith in the breaststroke, McCoy in the butterfly and Fox anchoring with the freestyle.

“It’s so bittersweet,” said Karlie Smith after her last individual race at preliminaries on Thursday, Feb. 27. “I just know that [the program is] going to keep growing each year, and I’m so excited to see the progress.”

Senior Carter Michael and the boys’ squad had made it to the finals before but continued to push the limits and set new personal bests last week, as well. Michael finished eighth overall in the 100-meter freestyle, clocking in at 48.65 and slightly improving upon his preliminary time of 48.68 by 0.03 seconds. Michael also bettered his preliminary time of 1:48.91 in the 200-meter freestyle, finishing with a time of 1:48.71.

Senior Merrick Kovatch was unable to beat his preliminary time in the 200-meter individual medley, missing his goal by only 0.06 seconds, but made up for it in the 100-meter breaststroke by bettering his preliminary performance by nearly a full second and clocking in at 1:06:64 for 15th overall.

Michael and Kovatch joined fellow senior Ben Boonin and sophomore Mason Sanders to finish seventh overall in the 400-meter freestyle relay, with a time of 3:27.79 — which was more than a full second faster than their preliminary time of 3:29.03 just a few days earlier. The same squad also competed in the 200-meter freestyle relay and took seventh overall in that event, as well.

While last Saturday’s events were another major step in furthering the Indians’ swim program, Crandel will look to aim even higher next year. Generating interest in the sport will be instrumental in its overall success at the school.

“Rebuild and recruit,” he said of how he plans to replace his top senior swimmers. “It’s a matter of recruiting and getting people interested in the sport. We live near the beach, but there’s not enough interest. We can compete at the state level. We have talent. It’s just getting people out and then training them.

“If [students] invest in it, they’ll have a job [lifeguarding] all through college, they’ll stay healthy — and we’ll make Sussex County not look like it’s ‘Slower Lower.’”