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Spartans win 19th straight sectional

– Greetings from the Helen P. Brown Natatorium, where the annual Homestead Invitational – aka the IHSAA boys swimming and diving sectional – took place Saturday.

We have come to the point in the meet’s history in which birth certificates must be provided to determine whether any of the event’s participants were born before Homestead’s reign.

The guess is few, if any, were.

“It’s 19 now,” Homestead coach Chad Englehart said of the championship streak, which began in 1994-95.

And here’s how the Spartans rolled up 533 points, easily outdistancing second-place Carroll’s 414 and Snider’s 387: They won two relays, finished third in the other, had four individual champions and 11 athletes advance.

First- and third-place divers Kevin Frebel and Patrick Rittenhouse will move on to the regional round Tuesday at Hamilton Southeastern.

Should they advance, they will join the rest of their teammates in the first round of the state meet, at 6 p.m. Friday at the IU Natatorium at IUPUI in Indianapolis. The meet continues Saturday.

It was the Homestead depth that did in the rest of the field.

Except for the relays, Homestead had three individual participants in the remaining nine events, and the lowest any Spartan finished was fourth. That was in the 100-yard breaststroke, where Carroll went 1-2-3, led by the Chargers’ only individual winner, Blaine Nichols.

Snider had a double-winner in freshman Gabriel Swardson, who won the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly. The Panthers’ Landan Mintch won the 50 free, and Brennan Lill won the 100 free.

Other than Frebel dominating the diving competition with 499.95 points (second place had 344.05), Homestead’s other individual winners were Seth Johnson in the 100-yard backstroke, Cameron Frank in the 500 freestyle, and Benjamin Stone in the 200 free.

Stone also swam anchor on the winning 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams.

“It was huge,” he said of taking the 400 relay, which was the day’s last event. “At conference (NHC) we ended up getting second by like a second in the 400 freestyle relay, and we made it a goal the past couple months to really work on that and make sure we could finish hard.”

Cody Craig, the only senior on the relay team of Mark Whitakere, Kurt Gutwein and Stone, was a half-length behind when he began his third leg. When he was finished with his 100-yard sprint, he gave Stone a comfortable lead.

And it sealed the deal on No. 19.

“I’ve got a huge number of first-time sectional swimmers and young freshmen,” Englehart said. “I didn’t realize how disconnected they were from the legacy of the program.

“We started talking about it this week, and put up some results from past years, and started talking about what has come before them, and what they have – a responsibility to uphold and live up to.”