Strokes of Excellence
Carmel High School Swim Teams Notch Another Historic Season
Writer: Jon Shoulders
Photography Provided by Brian Brosmer & Carmel High School
If Carmel High School swimming coach Chris Plumb’s philosophy could be summed up in two words, they’d likely be: Think big.
Since early on in the 2017-2018 season, Plumb was constantly thinking not only of how his girls and boys teams would fare in the state championships but also whether each team would ultimately become national champs – a designation Swimming World magazine determines each year for public and private high schools by scoring the top 16 times in each event.
“We never talked about state – it was always about a national championship,” says Plumb, who serves as head coach at Carmel Swim Club in addition to being Carmel High School’s girls and boys coach. “I never got overly confident, but we had big goals right from the start. I knew how good we were and the level of swimmers that we had and their commitment to the team.”
Plumb’s approach has clearly been effective, as the Carmel boys and girls teams both took home IHSAA State Championship titles in February at the Indiana University Natatorium.
Both teams also won state titles under Plumb’s leadership last year too. This year was a record 32 straight state titles for the girls team, with 12 of those occurring during Plumb’s tenure, and the fourth in a row for the boys.
It doesn’t hurt when you have a ridiculously talented squad of Greyhound swimmers who Plumb says have been willing to go the extra mile in practices all season long. Drew Kibler, one of several Carmel boys team standouts, set a national public school 50-yard freestyle record during the state championship preliminaries with a time of 19.38, not long after swimming butterfly in a 200-yard medley relay with senior Ohio State University commit Stefano Batista, senior Indiana University commit Andrew Couchon and sophomore Wyatt Davis, which also set a national public school record.
“State records are an honor, but national records are special,” Kibler says. “Zionsville set the bar high last year and that motivated us to work hard and train like we hadn’t ever trained before. We definitely knew we had a very good chance to break the relay record, but I never even considered the 50-free record.”
The national 50-yard freestyle record broken by Kibler was previously set eight years ago by Vladimir Morozov of Torrance, California, with a time of 19.43, and Indiana’s previous state record was set by Zionsville’s Jack Franzman – one of Kibler’s biggest in-pool rivals this season and last – at 19.85 last year.
Kibler, who has committed to the University of Texas, also broke the national public school record for the 200 freestyle in 2017, at 1:33:30.
Batista won the 100 breaststroke at the state championship meet with a time of 54.74 while contributing to Greyhounds’ winning 200 freestyle relay and 200 medley relay.
Plumb says Kibler’s tireless work ethic rubbed off on all of his teammates at practices and meets.
“Drew’s energy is infectious, and he loves coming to practice and working hard,” Plumb says. “He loves having fun too, and no matter how hard something is at practice, Drew is always excited to do it and is always giving energy for things that not a lot of people are excited to do. I think people tend to rally around that.”
Senior Trude Rothrock, a University of Tennessee recruit, and junior Kelly Pash led the charge for the girls team at the state competition, both securing four first-place finishes including the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.
The Carmel boys and girls teams both won the national championship in the public school category last year, and they’ll have to wait several more months to find out if they are able to make it three in a row – national champs are typically announced by Swimming World in the summer.
“It sounds cliché, but this team really has developed an incredible culture of hard work and caring,” Kibler says. “The team fights for every hundredth-of-a-second improvement with literal blood, sweat and tears. And when anyone is feeling down or having a tough time getting through the practice, someone is always there for you.”
Plumb says his continued coaching success lies in avoiding complacency with his coaching methods and training systems. Typical training days for his Carmel swimmers consist of 120-minute morning sessions that include resistance work with a pulley system that he says strengthens muscle groups specific to swimming. After that, it’s hour-long weight room sessions in the afternoon and then 90 minutes in the pool.
“I think it comes down to a willingness to continue to learn and get better and to create a culture of excellence,” Plumb says. “And we have a great staff. My whole idea is that it’s all about culture. I don’t want teams – I want a program, and teams that can repeat and continue to get better.”