Greenwood swimmer Sheets hopes to finish in style

About four years ago, Greenwood started making some noise locally in girls swimming — an ascent that produced a 25th-place team finish at last year’s state meet.

The Woodmen boys have been tracking a couple of years behind the girls on that front, but they’ve also been a team on the rise of late. Senior Joe Sheets, one of those most responsible for the boys’ come-up, is hopeful that their breakthrough is coming this winter.

Having already placed a solid third against strong competition at both the Johnson County and Mid-State Conference meets, Sheets and his teammates have reason for such optimism.

“Year to year, we’ve had more and more guys step up and take a big leadership role, and those leaders on our team have grown our team,” Sheets said. “Our numbers and focus have just improved every single year, and the leaders on our team are really driving that.”

Sheets, of course, has been one of those leaders. A versatile swimmer who has consistently been among Greenwood’s top scoring swimmers, he achieved a career milestone last month by taking the county championship in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:01.90).

Even though he moved into shortly before that meet because he felt his 200 individual medley “wasn’t clicking,” Sheets said afterward that he liked his chances going in.

“Pretty much all week I was looking forward to that race, knowing I had a shot at it,” he said. “I had a long break before it, and the energy of my teammates kept pushing me through that. I could hear the energy of the whole building.”

Sheets also placed third at both county and conference in the 100 butterfly, clocking a time of 54.13 seconds at the latter.

As for what events he’ll swim in the postseason, Sheets says that’s still up in the air.

Just taking it meet by meet with what’s clicking and what’s not,” he said.

Regardless of what races he’s swimming in, Sheets has the same end goal regardless — qualifying for the state meet. Classmate Conner Peckinpaugh got there last season in the 500 freestyle, and Sheets is determined to join his friend at the IU Natatorium this time around.

“It was pretty disappointing not making it to state last year, so that’s the big goal this year,” Sheets said. “I need to get to state.”

Sheets — who is committed to swim at Bethel College after graduation — says that he would probably be racking up more individual victories if he lived in a different area, but he’s grateful to be in Johnson County facing some of the state’s best competition on a regular basis because it’s made him a better swimmer.

He’s hopeful that his efforts in the water have made — and will continue to make — Greenwood a name that consistently rings bells on the biggest stages.

According to Woodmen coach Ray Onisko, he’s already done just that. Whatever heights the program is able to reach in the future, Sheets and Peckinpaugh will be remembered as the trailblazers who got everything going.

“He definitely leads by his actions, and the way he carries himself in practice and at meets,” Onisko said of Sheets. “You see everybody follow him that way. He has their respect, and Conner has that too.”