HAMMOND | Smaller schools, such as Bishop Noll, frequently struggle with the resources needed for athletic programs.
A good example is the fact Noll’s pool has been inoperable for several years, making it that much tougher to have a swimming program.
But a group of dedicated seniors and a determined coach have taken the small yet feisty group to local prominence and a whole new level of respect.
Anthony Repay, Robert Lorenz and Brayden Banske have been members of the Noll swim program for all four years of high school. None of them had competitive experience before they got to Noll.
But what they have accomplished is nothing short of spectacular.
“Brayden talked me into coming out for swimming,” Repay said. “And then I turned around and talked Robby (Lorenz) into joining us.”
All three shared the desire to do something different and unique.
“Swimming is unlike other sports,” Lorenz said. “There’s uniqueness to it. I’m not saying it's better or anything, but you know you’re part of something that is a little off the beaten path.”
Off the beaten path describes the journey the Warriors had to take just to practice.
In these last four years, they have practiced at Calumet as well as the other four Hammond schools.
They have to schedule their practices around the teams they visit. That means odd hours with odd travel times.
But the Warriors have turned that into a positive.
“We drive to a lot of our practices,” Repay said. “So, as upperclassmen, we would go pick up the freshmen and take them with us. We would make a bonding experience out of it. Instead of it being an obstacle, it was a fun part of the journey.”
With the logistic issues the team had to face, no one would be surprised if their record were poor. But, just like the travel, the seniors have found a way to make it count.
“We have taken first-place in our conference (GSSC) the last four years,” Coach Pam Armagast said. “We have also won the conference tournament the last four years. Our record this season is 13-1, with our only loss to Highland.
"We now own all of the GSSC conference records for each of the three relay events.”
If she sounds proud, it’s with good reason.
“It’s been amazing to watch these young men grow, in and out of the pool,” Armagast said. “They do not let anything get in their way. It’s really inspiring.”
Lorenz said the team takes a lot of pride in what they have accomplished.
“We always come in as the underdog,” he said. “We like having that chip on our shoulder; kind of like the poor stepchild. We use it as a source of motivation and pride.”
Sectionals have always been tough for smaller schools that must compete against Munster, Crown Point and Lake Central. It’s been no different for the Warriors.
“We know how challenging it is when we go up against the big schools with sophisticated programs,” Repay said. “We have to try and focus on our goals of beating our times.”
Lorenz said that this last go-around will be special for the seniors.
“We are aware it’s our last time doing this together,” he said. “We haven’t talked about it too much yet. That time is coming. But it’s been a fun ride, and we want to go out on a high note.”
Armagast said that the impact the three seniors made of the program will remain when they are gone.
“Our numbers have grown every year,” she said. “We have 18 swimmers out this year. That is huge for us. They are excited about the future of our program.
"The ones who got picked up for practice are now making plans to be the drivers next year.”