Chesterton girls swimming coach Kevin Kinel expects this weekend's IHSAA state finals to be a "pretty wild tournament," and I can't disagree with him.
I was on hand for the Duneland Athletic Conference meet and the Chesterton Sectional, and the results were eye-popping.
At least 14 school, conference or Chesterton pool records were broken Jan. 15 at the DAC. That's before any tapers had begun, and the event was held on the shallow end of the pool.
The Trojans broke four sectional marks last week -- this time from the deeper end of the pool.
The excitement at both events was among the most memorable in my 20-plus years of event coverage, but those who played a part in some of the marks believe this is only the beginning.
"It's a totally different atmosphere," said Chesterton junior Julia Campbell, who swam legs on the DAC and sectional record-breakers in the 400 free relay, of the state meet. "You'll see some of the same people, but it's totally different than competing in our pool."
I remember talking with Crown Point freshman Aly Tetzloff at the DAC meet, and she said her main focus wasn't on the conference competition.
"I really didn't prepare that much for this meet," said Tetzloff, who was part of at least seven records that day. "This really gives me confidence for the state meet."
Those words ring true now. She broke sectional marks in the 100 back (56.05) and 100 fly (55.26), securing the respective No. 1 and 2 prelim seeds.
She's not the lone top-seeded area representative. Munster broke the sectional mark in the 200 medley relay (1:44.31), and it's also the quickest heading into the prelims.
Fourteen local entries are seeded in the top eight, and the 100 back is a who's who of area talent. Tetzloff has the top seed; Lake Central's Shelby Carroll is fourth (56.27); Munster's Brittany Gilbert is sixth (56.49), and Chesterton's Maddie Miller eighth (57.66).
As the team title goes, Carmel hopes to extend its national-record streak to 26. After Saturday's sectional, Kinel thought at least eight teams had a shot at the top spot. After looking at the seeds, he's changed his mind.
"It could be as many as 16," he said. "These psych sheets are incredible."
Miller broke sectional marks set by Chesterton alums Jenni Anderson (Indiana Hall of Fame) and Talor Whitaker, who each have six state titles. Despite that accomplishment, Miller has only one top-eight seed, and she's 17th in the 200 IM (2:08.25).
"That just shows you how fast the state meet is going to be," Kinel said.
Swimmers like Campbell just hope they can put up a realistic twist on the situation to deal with the tension.
"It's not life or death," she said. "You have to remember it's still just a meet."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.