FRANKLIN, Ind. – The 2018-19 campaign was a magical one for the Franklin College swimming & diving teams with both the men's and women's programs climbing to new heights by the end of the conference championships.
For the first time ever, both teams laid claim to Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) championships with the women winning the event for the second time and the men capturing their first. Additionally, the women's team made history by sending five swimmers to the national tournament, capturing All-America status in an individual event and as a team in a relay.
As both the calendar and roster turned over to the start of the 2019-20 campaign, there is more than enough momentum for the Grizzlies to build on this winter.
"I tell my team every year that we never want to rebuild," Head coach Andy Hendricks noted. "We always want to re-load and we felt like we have done that this year. We expect to be good and we'll build on what we did a year ago incrementally throughout the year and we want both genders represented at nationals. A few of our kids had the chance to do it last year and now everyone wants the chance to rub elbows with the top schools in the country. Our kids are anxious to show that they belong in the competition with those teams."
The Franklin women graduated just two swimmers from a year ago and return the four members that became the first All-Americans in history last spring in juniors Brynna Sentel, Ashley Snoke, Courtnee Coffman and Jacqueline Richard. The quartet earned the honor with a 16th-place finish in the 200 medley, earning Honorable Mention All-America status. Sentel would later become the first individual to earn the same honor with her performance in the 100 backstroke.
Franklin's remaining returners features plenty of talent up and down the lineup, making the team a threat to score in every single race. And for everyone on the roster, the thought of joining their teammates at the national championships is a goal that has everyone champing at the bit to get started.
"Our women agree that we have unfinished business at nationals.," Hendricks added. "We learned we can compete with the top 10 teams in the country and the four that went to nationals last year are hungry to get back there. But we have the depth there to replace what we lost and we have good student-athletes that will rise to the occasion. They want to swim for each other and you're in a good place as a program when they want to do that."
Eager to take the next step as a program and join their female counterparts in North Carolina in March, the Grizzly men feature a roster that carries a wealth of experience and a seven-man senior class anxious to make the most of their final year.
James Hone, Jordan Cermak, Jack Heim, Ben Doss, Mac Howard, Zach Rayce and Jacob Weir will all be counted on to score in individual and relay events. The senior class is flanked by last year's HCAC Male Swimmer of the Year in junior Charlie Hall and a host of other Grizzlies ready to push the program to greater heights.
"Our men's team returns a balanced group across the board and the depth that we had from top to bottom last year allowed us to win the conference," Hendricks continued. "We expect that to be the case again because we have a very deep roster with solid swimmers that are going to be in the hunt to win events and score a lot of points for us."
On the diving boards, the Grizzlies will lean on a trio of freshman throughout the year. Gauge Creech and Collin Barton will make their debuts for the FC men and Faith Jackson takes over top diving duties for the Grizzly women. The adjustment to diving at the college level should be an easy one for all three local products, as all have spent time at the club level under the guidance of FC diving coach, Ty Hoffman.
"The biggest strength of our diving trio is the familiarity they have with Ty," Hendricks closed. "The biggest challenge they are going to have is to maximize their talent now at the college level. We tell our divers that they're all capable to dive past the regional level. It's a lot to ask of three freshmen divers but we wouldn't expect that if we didn't believe in them."
Franklin will be tested in their first event of the year, which takes place on Saturday, Oct. 19 in West Lafayette, Ind. at the Indiana Intercollegiates. Start time is set for 12:00 p.m.