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Thursday, December 5, 2019

2019-2020 Highlands Swimming Preview

Bluebirds Expecting More Big Results

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands Head Swimming and Diving Coach Amanda Johnson (left) goes over practice strategy on Tuesday.
It is a common theme at Highlands High School.

Success breeds success.

The Highlands swimming and diving teams have seen a major influx of that these past couple seasons. The Highlands boys team has won the Region 7 title two years in a row before finishing third at state. The combined teams won their eighth straight region title before finishing runner-up at state. The Highlands girls improved to third in the region before finishing 17th in the state meet with 35 points.


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"You can see the team is very excited and energetic about getting into the meets and having that success," said Amanda Johnson, Highlands Head Coach. "Then it just spreads because I feel each year, we have more and more kids come out for the team. That's huge because that's how you build a program. Depth is so important."

Highlands graduated Olivia Hopper off the girls team and five off the boys team including Brenden Conley, Matthew Lorenz and Jake Ryan. But the Bluebirds welcome 31 boys and 29 girls this season for a combined total of 60 participants.

The four seniors for the boys are Tyler Brown, Mason Opitz and Davis Recht. Preston McAlpin is also back after taking a year off. Juniors Jack Banks, Will Griffith, Harrison Pawsat and Mac Russell are also hoping for big things. Russell finished fifth in state in the 50 Freestyle last year in 21.29 seconds and fourth in the 100 free in 46.85 seconds. Banks finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 57.08 seconds and eighth in the 100 butterfly in 50.96 seconds.

Griffith, Banks and Russell helped Highlands to a second-place finish in the 400 free in three minutes, 10.5 seconds. Russell and Griffith also helped the Bluebirds finish fourth in the 200 free in 1:27.05 and fifth in the 200 medley relay in 1:38.21. Banks also participated in the 400 free and Brown partook in the 200 medley relay.

Sophomores Reece Guthier, Sam Jones and Benjamin Vaught along with freshmen Sam Hopper and Matt Herfel could also score points in swimming for the Bluebirds. Johnson listed freshmen Logan Holbrook, Evan Jones and Adam Pawlak as up-and-coming swimmers along with new middle schoolers Griffin Barlow, Torin Bryant, Charlie Banks and Hayden Hasson. Junior Michael Meadows along with freshmen Robert Arnberg and Owen Rogiers are listed as the top returning divers.

"I know guys that have picked up club swimming just to help the team out, which is going from swimming about two times a week just here in the winter to year-round," Banks said. "It's definitely been a domino effect. It will help this year as well. It's definitely the camaraderie. When you go through training together, it forms a tight bond. That's really what everyone is here for."


The Highlands girls have six seniors led by Caroline Sand, Tori Sutkamp and Rachel Moscona. The other three are Kelsey Miller, Sarah Pearson and Zoe Poff. Sand finished seventh in the 100 free in 52.67 seconds at state and 12th in the 200 free in 1:56.51. Sutkamp, Sand and Moscona helped the 200 freestyle relay team to a 10th-place finish at state in 1:42.61.

"The energy is always there at the meets and here at practice, we're always supporting each other. Getting the word out there about how fun the swim team is," Sutkamp said. "People don't really think about the swim team that much. I've gotten some of my friends to swim with me this summer and they've liked it because I've told them how fun it is."

Junior Sarah Redden, sophomores Evia Combs, Molly Eide and Grace Walsh along with freshmen Belle Bryant, Sarah Yu and eighth grader Peyton Wissman are also hoping to contribute big this year. The top returning divers are juniors Kenna Abner, Lauren Groeschen and eighth grader Liddy Richter.

The first dual match is Dec. 14 at the M.E. Lyons YMCA in Cincinnati. The Bluebirds take on Cincinnati Anderson at 2 p.m.

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