Boys swimming and diving: State meet preview

Aleksandr Ries was only in eighth grade when the tablecloth got yanked out from underneath the delectable five-course meal that Franklin swimming and diving had been enjoying.

He’s been helping cook up a new one in the two years since.

Still just a sophomore, Ries — known simply as A-Rock on the Franklin pool deck — has been the driving force behind the Grizzly Cubs’ push to return to their former glory. The first meaningful step forward came last weekend, when he finished first in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 breaststroke to help lead Franklin to a sectional championship, its first since 2021.

“It’s something that we’d been working toward for a really long time,” Ries said after that meet. “It required lots of effort, and it’s nice to see that it’s coming to fruition.”

Reclaiming the sectional, though, was not the end goal for Ries or his Grizzly Cub teammates. That comes this weekend at the IU Natatorium, where Franklin will try to reclaim what it feels its its rightful place among the state’s elite.

Franklin had a nine-year run of sectional championships and top-20 state finishes, one that culminated with five top-10 showings in a row (2017-21) and state runner-up trophies in 2018 and 2019. But in 2022, following the loss of a large and decorated senior class, the Grizzly Cubs surrendered the sectional to rival Center Grove and failed to score a single point at the state meet.

When Ries arrived on the scene last winter as a freshman, the rebuilding process began in earnest.

“He has helped change the culture in probably a more aggressively competitive way,” Franklin coach Zach DeWitt said. “He’s not quite there with his consistency, but his competitive spirit in practice sometimes is what carries us to better performances in meets.”

Ries made an immediate impact, winning the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 breaststroke at the sectional meet. His sectional time of 56.90 seconds in the breast obliterated Franklin’s former freshman record and stood as the second fastest time in the nation by a 14-year-old last season. A month later, he set meet records in the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke at the NCSA Age Group Swimming Championship in Orlando, Florida.

In between, though, was a somewhat disappointing performance — by his standards, anyway — at state. Ries did still manage to get on the board with a 15th-place finish in the IM, but he added time back in the breaststroke and finished 17th, failing to advance out of the preliminaries.

Armed with that experience, he’s more prepared to go that extra week.

“Coming into this season, we knew that I had to taper for state, and that’s the plan so far,” Ries said. “(At the sectional) I definitely did not put in 100%; I was a little laid-back there on that front. But we will be ready — all of us will be ready — for state.”

Ries is aiming for top-eight finishes in both of his individual events, and also hoping to help the Grizzly Cubs’ 200 medley relay (seeded 10th) and 200 freestyle relay (seeded fourth) onto the podium. Do all that, and Franklin should be in a strong position to get back into at least the top 20 as a team, if not the top 10.

Though he is looked at as a leader on this squad, Ries is quick to point out that the rebirth of the Grizzly Cubs, both culturally and on the stopwatch, can be attributed to plenty of others.

“It’s not as much what I’ve done,” he said, “but mostly the other people coming up, like (Lucas) Ackermann and Alijah Hall and Jacob Meinczinger. Those people, they mean a lot, and they really have been putting in serious work and effort into being killers on the team.”

“The boys do look up to him, very much so, despite the fact that he’s a sophomore,” DeWitt added. “But we also do have some good leaders there in the senior ranks between Isaac Layton and Franco (Chirinos), and (Ethan) Demaree’s kind of the vocal leader. So we’ve got other people to help him, but in terms of the competitive spirit and having a little bit of competitive edge, he brings that.”

Franklin certainly seemed to have its competitive edge back last weekend, but as Ries noted — and DeWitt made abundantly clear to his swimmers in the immediate aftermath of the sectional celebration — that was just one leg of an ongoing journey back toward the top.

Prior to the beginning of the postseason, Ries had penned a paragraph — a mission statement of sorts — that read, in part: “In order to be where we see ourselves this season or the following, it’s going to require extraordinary persistence. … Collectively, we choose to run into the fire, because everything burns.”

Ries’ teammates have followed him in, and they’re all starting to reap the rewards of their faith.


IHSAA state meet

Where: IU Natatorium, Indianapolis

When: 6 p.m. today (swimming preliminaries); 9 a.m. Saturday (diving prelims/semifinals; 1 p.m. Saturday (swimming and diving finals)

Admission: $10 per session or $19 both days; children under 5 free. All tickets must be purchased digitally at

Pay-per-view: ($10 one day, $15 both days)