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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Highlands Swimming and Diving Teams Head to Region with High Hopes

Bluebird Boys Seek First Region Crown Since 1994

Contributed Photo. Highlands junior Matthew Lorenz takes off in the Region 7 swimming and diving meet last year. The Highlands boys swimming and diving team is looking for its first region crown since 1994.
The streaks of the teams located on the opposite side of Dixie Highway in Park Hills in Region 7 Swimming and Diving have been well-documented over the years.

The Covington Catholic Colonels have won the region 19 years in a row on the boys' side and the Notre Dame Pandas have done the same thing on the girls' side. But at least one trend could change this year.

The Highlands Bluebirds boys swimming team has defeated Covington Catholic twice this year marking the first wins over the Colonels in 20 years and hopes to do it one more time Saturday. The last time the Highlands boys won the region came in 1994. The Region 7 Dive meet is Saturday at 10 a.m. at Scott and the region swim finals take place Saturday at Silverlake in Erlanger at 5:40 p.m. The swim prelims take place Friday at Silverlake.

The last teams to win the Region 7 Swimming and Diving crowns aside from CovCath and Notre Dame came in 1998. Scott won the boys title that year and Beechwood won the girls championship. That Scott team's head coach was Jerry Mohr, whose grandson Harrison Pawsat is a freshman swimmer on the Highlands team. The head coach of that Beechwood girls team was Linda Groetzinger, who is the mother of current Highlands Head Coach Amanda Johnson.

"Their confidence does rise, but I have a very humble team," Johnson said. "We really don't talk about (winning region) a lot. It's one of those unspoken things everyone is excited about. It's going to be a very exciting meet."

The Highlands boys team and the Combined teams are undefeated this year. The boys have also defeated Cincinnati Elder, Oak Hills and Anderson. The Combined team will be going for its seventh straight region crown. Both the boys and girls teams won the Eastern Kentucky University Relay Meet on Dec. 9.

"They put in a lot of time and a lot of hard work," Johnson said. "It's the best time of the year - the post-season, regionals and state. Most all of them strive to get their best times at the end of the season and it's awesome to see them do that."

To qualify for the state meet at the University of Louisville, individuals and relay teams have to place in the top two of the region. After taking the top two in the nine regions, individuals and relay teams that have the best 22 scores or times from all the regions make state.

The Highlands boys have been led by senior swimmer Garrison Herfel. He was voted most outstanding male swimmer in both the Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference Division I and Scott Eagle Classic meets. Herfel is undefeated in the 50-meter Freestyle race.

"I haven't had a lot of time spent with this team just because it's my senior year and I've only been swimming with these people a couple months," Herfel said. "But I feel like it's been great. Everyone has really come together and everybody has gotten super excited about every single swim meet. I just feel that I haven't been on a lot of swim teams where it feels like that. I'm just glad we've put together such a good team."

Herfel is also a member of the NKAC Division I champion 200 and 400-meter relay teams along with junior Brendan Conley and freshman Mac Russell. The fourth member of the 200 squad is freshman Jack Banks and the other 400 relay member is freshman Will Griffith.

Sophomore Finn Murphy leads the Bluebird boys in diving. He tied for first in the region meet last year and has won the Eagle Classic this year and finished second at the NKAC Division I meet. The leading girl diver for Highlands is freshman Lauren Groeschen.

A number of Highlands swimmers could go to state. There are 32 boys and 26 girls on the squad. Others to watch for the Bluebird boys are seniors Chas Sand, David Guthier, juniors Matthew Lorenz, Jake Ryan and sophomore Tyler Brown. Some Highlands girls swimmers to watch are senior Savannah Brady, junior Olivia Hopper, sophomores Caroline Sand, Rachel Moscona, freshman Sarah Redden and eighth grader Evia Combs.

"Our girls are solid," Johnson said. "We have really talented swimmers and divers. I get just as excited about the girls as I do the boys. I want to give them just as much credit. We're not as deep as we've been in the past. But we actually have a lot of girls this year that are going to contribute and score in the top 16 at regionals."

The state meet runs at the University of Louisville from Feb. 22 through Feb. 24. The diving prelims are Feb. 22 and the swimming prelims the following day with the finals take place on Saturday the 24th.

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