JEFFERSONVILLE — Jeffersonville will attempt to capture its third straight Hoosier Hills Conference championship this Saturday at Seymour, and it may be doing so with its strongest team to date.
Still, Jeff coach Keith Gast isn’t taking anything for granted entering the meet.
“We have gone through the dual-meet season in the conference with a 7-0 record, but championship-meet scoring can sometimes swing the advantage differently than dual-meet scoring,” Gast said. “I certainly like our chances to win and I know we wil go in ready to swim fast. If someone is going to step in and beat us, we’re going to make them swim fast to do it.”
Jeffersonville isn’t just looking to beat the competition. They’re looking to improve on the times that earned them their championship last season.
“Like any championship meet, whether we look to win or we look to finish near the bottom, we will measure our success based on our own times,” Gast said. “We talked as a group this week, and one of our goals is to be a better team than we were last year at the HHC meet. All of our entries are looking to beat last year’s counterpart.
“Zach (Blankenbeker) and T. (Martin) are looking to swim faster at this meet than they did at New Albany last year in the HHC championship. We want to have our relays swim faster than they did last year. We are looking to match the girls’ 75 percent season-best times (at the girls’ HHC meet) or better.”
Blankenbeker and Martin are the strongest swimmers on a strong Jeff team, and Gast expects the two to win their individual events. Both also take part in relays, and Jeffersonville has its sights set on taking first in all three events.
But Blankenbeker and Martin represent the tip of the talent iceberg for Jeff.
“We think Connor Richardson has a good chance to win the diving title,” Gast assessed, “and I think we might see some No. 2 and 3 swimmer step up and improve time and place at the meet.”
Even though this Saturday is a championship, Gast will continue to try to figure out what the best combination for the state tournament will be.
“We have a couple of guys that are still trying to find the best event for them in the tournament,” Gast said. “Particularly, seniors Austin Smith and Ty Arthur. We also have some pretty stiff competition for the third entry in most of our individual events. So we are going to ask the guys to step up on Saturday and show that they deserve to be in the sectional lineup in three weeks.”
With Jeff as the favorite, the closest challenger could be Floyd Central. The Highlanders finished their dual-meet season with a 7-1 record, their only loss coming to Jeffersonville.
“We expect our kids to swim well heading into the meet,” Floyd Central boss Joe Perkins said. “They have had a great January with practices and have looked mentally sharp in our two dual meets this month.”
Floyd Central expects to have some individual champions at the meet.
“Oscar Anderson has not been beat in the 200 IM during dual meets this season,” Perkins said. “He has had very consistent swims in the event all year. We hope to see him have a great race in that event on Saturday.
“Dylan Nichols has been doing very well on 11 dives the past two dual meets and always seems to perform at a high level when we get to the end of the season.”
However, in order for Floyd Central to challenge Jeff for the HHC championship, its young swimmers will have to step up and perform like veterans.
“We are a very young team,” Perkins said. “We have nine freshmen on our roster heading into this meet, with seven of those being entered into the meet. Those guys will need to put the atmosphere of this meet aside and focus on what they need to do to be successful.
“Our older guys will lead the way for them. They have set the tone in practice this week, helping them understand the importance of this meet. A successful meet for us will be focusing on our team and swimming season-best times on Saturday.”