UNION TWP. — With Emma Keene's status as an accomplished youth swimmer, Griffith coach Barb Bolda fully expected her to contribute immediately.
Keene posted impressive club times and had the added advantage of swimming with her sister Haylie, a junior. Perhaps already knowing a member of the team so well would help Emma assimilate more smoothly.
While that connection does help, there's some healthy sibling rivalry, too.
“It kind of gets annoying after a while, because sometimes we're each trying to push each other differently,” Emma Keene said. “So I'll get mad when she's doing something, and she'll get mad. But once we're in the water and about to get ready to race, it's fun.”
The Keene sisters helped lead Griffith to 200-yard medley relay and 200 freestyle relay victories at Saturday's Greater South Shore Conference meet as the Panthers took third place. North Newton earned first place, Wheeler second, Bishop Noll fourth and Calumet fifth.
Only one senior swam for Griffith, so the Keenes' chemistry should be a big part of the Panthers' future. The two don't simply hype each other up however. They give each other feedback on technical aspects of the sport, as well as “sisterly love,” as Haylie put it.
“It helps, because (Haylie) has the experience, and I have someone to go to if I'm scared at big meets like this,” Emma Keene said. “She already has been through all of this two times, so now I have a chance to see what's gonna happen.”
Griffith's pool features a true family atmosphere, as the Panthers have two more pairs of siblings: Connor and Abby Begeske, plus Kylee and Thomas Taylor. Bolda said they're all friends, and the girls' performance gave them even more reason to smile.
Bolda said she thinks the Panthers' performance and continued improvement set themselves up for a successful sectional meet. Haylie Keene has even bigger goals: To take Griffith further than ever before.
“At Griffith, we don't have a board on the wall saying you won conference and state,” Hailey Keene said. “Our goal is to get a girls conference board on the wall, winning conference, hopefully going farther than conference, having a couple of us going to state.”
Wheeler's Laura Wong edged Emma Keene in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, while Aimee Bolde won the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. North Newton pulled the upset thanks to dominance on the diving board, as the Spartans took first, second and fifth.