Caroline Weigand is on a path that's led to a championship. The Homestead junior set a sectional record in the 100 breastroke Saturday in 1:02.34, but what's more important is what happened the last time the record was set.
When Weigand was a freshman, she saw then-Homestead senior Tori Bagan set the record and go one to win her second state championship in the event.
Now, it's Weigand's turn to try and bring back the state title following a record-setting swim as the girls state swimming preliminaries begin at 6 p.m. at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis with finals scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.
“Tori has been such a great influence on me, and it's amazing to know that I'm right where she's at and know what she's done,” Weigand said. “I know what time she managed to get at state after she swam at sectionals, so I'm hoping I'll be right there with her.”
Weigand is one of seven swimmers who are competing for the No. 10 Spartans this weekend and isn't the only one hoping to bring home a potential individual state championship. She is joined by fellow teammates Bailey Pressey, No. 11 in the 100 butterfly and No. 13 in the 100 backstroke, and Reagan Cook, No. 10 in the 200 individual medley, and they team with Katie Krevics for the No. 3 medley relay team.
All of them are just hoping to stay loose through the chaotic mess that can be the state meet, Homestead coach Chad Englehart said.
“When you are at South Side, and it's your crowd and Carroll's crowd and Snider's crowd, and you know them and they know you, there's a comfort level there; it's really easy to do (well),” Englehart said.
“When you get down to state,” he continued, “and it's a whole different ballgame of stands, instead of 400, it's 4000, instead of three big teams, you got 30 big teams, the comfort level, the anxiety, the stress can grow. We are just really focused on right now: stay in your lane, stay in your swim and be who you are.”
Even for the experienced swimmers this isn't the easiest to do. Weigand took third in the 100 breaststroke last year and Pressey took 11th in the 100 butterfly, but they admitted there is a lot more pressure and differences in Indianapolis.
Just as challenging is trying to get just as excited for a state meet one week after putting everything they had in the sectional meet.
“It's a lot harder than any other thing that we do,” Pressey said. “The meet itself is a really fast-moving meet, but with the team, we always know how to have fun and keep everyone cheered up.”
Homestead won't just be looking to help their own teammates, but also cheer on other representatives from the area. This includes six swimmers from No. 22 Carroll, four from No. 12 Snider and one from Bishop Dwenger. Part of Snider's team includes sophomore Michaela Mintch, No. 3 in the 50 freestyle, and Hannah Miller, No. 7 in the 500 freestyle. Carroll's Courtney Kresl, Lauren Blanchard, Mykenzie Kostka and Zoe Toscos, all freshmen, form the No. 6 team in the 200 freestyle relay and No. 8 team in the 400 freestyle relay.
Weigand's sectional time gave her the No. 1 spot heading into the state meet. Part of that she likely owes to when she swam with Bagan as a freshman. During that year, Weigand got a few lessons on her turns, something that can be crucial in a close race.
“Her freshman year, Tori beat her up pretty badly on her turns and really schooled her on that,” Englehart said. “Caroline has worked hard and developed those turns better and better, and she'll need to have good ones this weekend.”
If those lessons worked out, Weigand's route following Bagan could end in the same place – hanging a state champion banner on the Southwest Allen Natatorium wall.