The coaches of the Franklin girls swimming team may or may not have been obsessively watching the scoreboard at Saturday’s state meet and trying to map out where the team was going to finish.
The Grizzly Cub swimmers themselves didn’t pay any attention to the standings — and as a result, they finished higher up than any girls or boys team in program history ever had.
Led by a pair of top-four individual finishes from junior Carla Gildersleeve and top-eight showings on all three relays, Franklin placed fourth in the state with 163 points.
“We tried to block it out and have fun and try to just worry about ourselves, and I think that’s what got us here,” junior Ali Terrell said. “Just worrying about ourselves like we do every other meet.”
Third place was within reach going into the final event, but Hamilton Southeastern’s 400-yard freestyle relay team was able to inch its way past the Grizzly Cubs, and the Royals finished with 165 points.
Carmel won its 32nd consecutive state title with 363 points, easily outdistancing runner-up Northridge (215).
Just as it had during Friday’s preliminaries, Franklin started strong. The 200 medley relay team of junior Jessie Fraley, Kabria Chapman, Terrell and Gracey Payne was second behind Carmel, with its time of 1 minute, 43.67 seconds narrowly breaking the school record it had set Friday.
Gildersleeve followed up by finishing fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:46.69), and she later was second to Carmel’s Trude Rothrock in the 100 butterfly (53.75 seconds).
Freshmen Chapman and Payne then got in on the act, as each capped her state debut with a seventh-place finish. Payne finished the 100 freestyle in 51.65 seconds, and Chapman swam the 100 breaststroke in 1:04.16.
“It was a little nerve-wracking at first,” Chapman said of her first state experience, “but after a while you kind of get used to it and you just know you’ve got to put your heart out there.”
Terrell won the consolation final of the 200 individual medley in 2:04.28 to secure ninth-place points, and she later finished 14th in the breaststroke and joined Gildersleeve, senior Ella Pheifer and Payne on the 200 freestyle relay quartet, which finished fourth in 1:35.74.
The 400 freestyle relay team of Gildersleeve, Pheifer, Fraley and sophomore Sarah Hoffman wrapped up Franklin’s breakthrough day with an eighth-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay.
“It feels really good; we’ve done things we’d never done before,” Terrell said. “We just came here and had fun.”
Pheifer was 13th in the 50 freestyle and 16th in the 100 freestyle, sophomore Sarah Hoffman was 15th in the 500 freestyle and 16th in the 200 freestyle and Fraley placed 16th in the 100 backstroke.
Neither of Johnson County’s diving qualifiers made it past the morning preliminaries. Greenwood’s Faith Jackson finished 21st and Center Grove’s Sarah Kempf was 29th.
The Grizzly Cubs, meanwhile, stayed busy all afternoon, scoring in every event but diving — and head coach Zach DeWitt is hopeful that his team will continue to climb the ladder next season.
“First and foremost, I think the girls know what it’ll take,” he said. “It’s so close — I mean, third was a couple tenths of a second this way or that way throughout the course of the meet in any which race. When you start talking about margins that small, it’s not like we need to be superwomen by next year. We just need to be a little bit better.”
“Continue to do the little things right, and it’ll all add up in the end,” Gildersleeve added. “Next year will be our best year yet.”