FRANKLIN - An exciting season awaits the Franklin women's swimming and diving team. The Grizzlies are preparing to open the 2017-2018 season on Oct. 7 at the University of Louisville against opponents from NCAA Division III, Division II, and the NAIA.
The FC women are coming off a 10 – 1 season last year with their only loss coming down to the last event against a strong Illinois Wesleyan team in the final dual meet of the 2016-2017 season.
Fortunately, the Grizzlies rebounded in grand fashion by winning the Heartland Conference invite for the fifth time in six years and captured their first NCAA Liberal Arts Championship by besting a difficult field by 95 to wrap up the 2016-2017 season.
Head coach Andrew Hendricks has been at the helm of the swimming programs for nearly a decade and has witnessed a grand evolution in the program's success since the beginning. In the last four years, he has been named the Liberal Arts Coach of the Year three times and has led the FC women's team to NCAA Nationals in a remarkably short amount of time.
The Grizzlies graduated eight swimmers from last year's team, including NCAA National Qualifier and Academic All-American, Regina Solik. Solik set new team records in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and several relays on her way to her first NCAA National qualification and NCAA Woman of the Year nomination. In all, the women reset the record board 13 times last season.
"I'm not sure you can ever fully replace a group like we had from last year," Hendricks added. "They are simply a special group of young women in the pool and in the classroom. But we like to think of it in a formidable fashion. We don't think of it as rebuilding, we're reloading."
The outgoing senior class and the women before them have helped set the tone that makes Franklin College synonymous with the sport of swimming. In the four previous seasons, the Grizzlies went 43-3-1 and won the Heartland Conference invitational five of the last six years.
Despite some significant roster losses, the Grizzlies return a core group of their most talented swimmers including Cady Mehringer, who is back from injury. The group is led by Karlee Demsey, Mackenzie Dwyer, and Amy McCormick, all of whom are multi-time individual NCAA Liberal Arts champions. Between the three, they cover 7 individual team records and are represented on all 5 record-setting relays. The upper classmen are joined by Natalie Hollensead, Katie Dodd, Bri Gunning and Mary Jeffries, to round out the group.
"I am very excited for this year," Demsey noted. "Our team is bigger, stronger, and faster than we have ever been. I believe with this new team, we will be the most successful we have ever been despite our already impressive record,"
Fellow senior Amy McCormick added, "With the talent and speed of our freshman class, I believe it's our time to shine and make a statement in the pool."
The Grizzlies reload with a talented roster of freshmen who are sure to make their own mark and build on the strong legacy of Franklin College Swimming and Diving. In all, 11 talented women were added to the roster this year, most of whom were state-level qualifiers.
Lexi Blackburn is the top finisher from the IHSAA state meet last year where she finished seventh in the one-meter diving competition. A graduate of Cascade High School, Blackburn carries on a tradition at Franklin. The aforementioned Solik, along with several others before her, all have had much success at Franklin after leaving the confines of Cascade.
Blackburn is joined by other IHSAA state qualifiers Ashley Snoke, Jacqueline Richard, Courtnee Coffman, and August Hartzell. Hartzell is likely the most well-rounded of the group adding solid depth in both the 200IM and 400IM while Snoke is a double threat in both breaststroke and butterfly. Coffman and Richard will add much needed sprint speed considering the Grizzlies graduated 4 of their top sprinters last year.
Olivia Walther, an Ohio state qualifier, will also bolster the sprint group, while Brynna Sentel, an Illinois state qualifier, will add much in various backstroke and freestyle events. Allyson Carroll, Liz Colliver, Jessica Halsmer, and Savannah Howerton round out the strongest female recruiting class in FC swimming history.
Despite being the 2017 NCAA Liberal Arts Champions, the team finds itself in a new situation with the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference adopting their first end-of-season championship meet in the 2017-2018 season. The Grizzlies have won the Heartland Invitational the last 5 of 6 years and is determined to win its first HCAC Championship this season.
Franklin will be joined by Anderson University, Manchester University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and Transylvania at this year's championship with Hanover College expected to take part in the 2018-2019 season. You can follow the Grizzlies on their road to Nationals through franklingrizzlies.com or via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.