A state medalist several times over since he was 10 years old, winning against swimmers his own age has never been an issue for Henry Lyness.
He wasn’t entirely sure how that would translate over to high school, when he’d be a 15-year-old freshman going against 18-year-olds. But it turned out just fine; Lyness not only qualified for the state meet but placed in both of his individual events, finishing 11th in the 100-yard butterfly and then winning the consolation final of the 100 backstroke to take ninth there.
“I was pretty surprised how I did,” Lyness said. “I was nervous going into state and the other big meets because I didn’t know what to expect, and I was really happy with how I did — and this year I’m hoping I can do a lot better, because I won’t be as nervous as I was last year.”
Now a seasoned sophomore, he’s ready to build upon that success — and Center Grove will need him to. With a dozen seniors graduated from last year’s county and sectional championship team, Lyness is being counted on to serve as one of the leaders on a young Trojans team.
Center Grove coach Brad Smith knew that more pressure would be put on Lyness coming into this season, but he also feels that the star soph is more equipped to handle it than he would have been a year ago.
“It’s inevitable that everyone always looks at the fastest person in the water to be a leader,” Smith said. “Just because of who he is, kids flock to him and rely on him.”
Even more so after the summer that Lyness had with the Center Grove Aquatic Club. He scored in the backstroke at the senior state long course championships and qualified for the Speedo Junior National Championships in Irvine, California in early August.
Though he wasn’t necessarily thrilled with how he fared (101st in the 100 backstroke), Lyness considered the meet a turning point of sorts in terms of affirming his place among the elite swimmers at his age both statewide and nationally; only seven 15-year-olds finished ahead of him.
“It gave me a lot more confidence … going into high school state this year, because I know that I’ll be racing — at least in the final, I’ll be racing people more like me,” I’m definitely going to have a lot more confidence because J-Nats gave me more experience at the higher level of swimming.”
Lyness isn’t sure what his second individual event will be in the championship meets this winter — backstroke is the only sure thing for now — but he’s setting top-eight state finishes as the bar in whatever he swims.
From a team standpoint, the heavy graduation losses have not altered the Trojans’ goals and expectations. Center Grove wants to hang on to its county and sectional titles, and it’s hoping to get back into the top 10 at the state meet; the Trojans finished 11th last winter after placing ninth in 2020 and eighth in both 2021 and 2022.
When those big meets come, Lyness knows he’s going to be counted on to do more than just go fast.
“The seniors last year definitely played a really big part in leading our team and giving us confidence going into the final meets,” he said. “Me and the juniors will definitely have to get our team hyped up for the big meets, because the seniors aren’t going to be there to do it.”
“He’s starting to understand his role,” Smith added, “not only on the team but in the sport.”
SCOUTING THE COUNTY
Center Grove Trojans
Coach: Brad Smith
Last season: Won county and sectional championships; 11th at state meet
Key returnees: Max Hite and Isaac Lewis, juniors; Anthony Cuadros, Caleb Heck and Henry Lyness, sophomores
Top newcomers: Thomas Alte, Gabe Argiris, Mason Bridges, Jack Udrasols and Moses Weaver, freshmen
Outlook: With a dozen seniors gone, the Trojans will be extremely young this year — but there is still plenty of talent to work with. Lyness scored state points as a freshman in the butterfly and backstroke, and Lewis also made it downtown in the individual medley. Alte fills at least part of the diving void, and the four freshman swimmers should all be able to at least contribute on a sectional level. Hanging onto the sectional crown will be tougher than it was last year, but the Trojans look to be on solid ground both in the present and in the future.
Franklin Grizzly Cubs
Coach: Zach DeWitt
Last season: Second at county and sectional, tied for 37th at state meet
Key returnees: Franco Chirinos, Ethan Demaree, Ezra Henry, Tyler Jones and Isaac Layton, seniors; David Barnett, Austin Clark, Gabe Holtz and Jacob Meinczinger, juniors; Lucas Ackermann and Aleksandr Ries, sophomores
Top newcomers: Alijah Hall and Alex Walden, juniors; Seth Russell, freshman
Outlook: After two years of watching Center Grove dominate locally, the Grizzly Cubs believe they’re poised to reclaim their spot on top. Ries (a state qualifier in the individual medley and breaststroke) is the headliner, but Chirinos and Layton head up a quality group of upperclassmen that was bolstered by the addition of Avon transfer Hall (a state qualifier there two years ago). How high this team can finish at state is unknown, but a sectional win is a very realistic goal.
Coach: Brooke Gilles
Last season: Fourth at county and sectional
Key returnees: Donald Heichel, Jackson Simms, Ben Wehnert and Lucas Young, seniors; Arya Gokhale and Ethan Rose, juniors
Top newcomers: David Brenton and Emmanuel Jackson, freshmen
Outlook: With four of their top five sectional scorers back, the Woodmen have to feel like top-three finishes in the county, Mid-State Conference and sectional meets are within their grasp. Gokhale was a sectional A finalist as a sophomore, with Wehnert, Young and Rose all right on the cusp of joining him. Jackson, an explosive athlete who has been a regular state qualifier on the age group scene, and Brenton should both offer immediate support. This is a deep and balanced squad capable of beating most of the teams on its schedule.
Indian Creek Braves
Coach: David Martin
Last season: Third at county and sectional; tied for 48th at state meet
Key returnees: Davis Cole, senior; Skyler Jasper, junior; Wyatt Hale, sophomore
Top newcomers: Xavier Arnold, Xavier Eubank and Jack Sopko, freshmen
Outlook: The Braves lost their lone state qualifier in Evan Dennis and don’t have much back in the way of numbers, but they’ll still be able to fill out at least two relays. Jasper made it to regional in diving last winter and should be in contention to do so again. The Creek roster isn’t deep or experienced enough to accomplish much as a team on the big stage, but Martin hopes the seeds are being planted for bigger things in years to come.
Coach: John Sincroft
Last season: Fifth at county and sixth at sectional
Key returnees: Jayden Collins, Noah Grady and River Starr, seniors; Chase Cooper, junior; Davis Dwyer and Conlan Hampson, sophomores
Top newcomers: Mason Benefield, Colten Franklin and Logan Papandria, freshmen
Outlook: The Warriors surprised a bit last season with a small team, finishing just four points back of third place at the sectional meet, and they’ll try to build some forward momentum off of that despite being relatively short on bodies again. Grady was a top-eight sectional finisher in diving, and both Cooper and Dwyer were key contributors individually and on relays, giving Sincroft a decent foundation to build off of. If the current crop can make the same type of in-season improvements as last year’s team did, then finishing in the middle of the sectional pack again is certainly possible.