Students from all over the Region have spent months training, hoping for a flawless performance when they hit the pools at the IHSAA Boys 2019 Sectional Swimming & Diving Finals.
Swimmers competed in a total of twelve events. Each swimmer was eager to begin their event, wishing that their time would be enough to bring them to the state level. Schools from all over the Region and surrounding areas competed in the meet, including Crown Point, East Chicago Central, Griffith, Hammond, Clark, Gavit, Morton, Bishop Noll, Highland, Kankakee Valley, Lake Central, Lowell, Munster, North Newton, Rensselaer Central, and South Newton.
Family, friends, and fans filled the stands at Munster High School on Saturday morning. Fans sported shirts from their favorite team and some even dressed head-to-toe in elaborate costumes to support the swimmers and divers competing in the meet. The energy was high as the first competing boys lined up to battle for first place. As the boys took their mark for the first heat of the meet, the 200-yard medley relay, fans jumped from their seats and cheers erupted from the stands.
Seated among the stands were men who brought with them a tradition over 30 years in the making. Roland Raffin sat among a group of men sporting impressive Aquaman costumes.
“Every year, the seniors’ dads pick a different theme,” Raffin said. “Last year we were Elvis, the year before we were bikers. These kids put a lot of work in. It’s the least we can do.”
Roland’s voice and the voice of other dads grew hoarse from cheering for Munster High School. Among those they were rooting for was Holden Raffin, Roland’s son, who captured the top seed in his individual event during the preliminaries meet on Friday. The group hoped their outfits would show their support to Munster High School swimmers.
“We are dressed up so we can help pump up the boys for the 34th consecutive sectional championship, and they’re rocking it,” Raffin said. “They boys put in hours and hours and miles and miles of swimming every week. They are there at 5:30 in the morning before school starts and stay until 6:00 at night.”
Holden Raffin brought home a sectional record in both the 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard individual medley. Raffin also helped break the record for the 200-yard medley relay alongside teammates Kyle Adams, Grant Afman, and Fenry Zhou.
Competing at a sectional level requires diligence, commitment, and countless hours of practice. Months, and in some cases years, of training all lead up to a few moments in the pool at sectionals. For some, their hard work paid off, and they left the pool victorious.
When Richard Damron, a senior at Griffith High School, first tried to enter into the world of high school competitive swimming, he was told he wasn’t fast enough to compete.
“After his freshman year, he was trying to find a group to swim with. When he came to Munster, they told him he was too slow,” Barbara Bolda, Head Swim Coach of Griffith High School, said.
Damron demonstrated the true spirit of young athletics in the Region as he stayed committed to improving his skills to make it to the top. With the support of his father who enrolled him in private lessons with Matt Lee, the Head Coach of Munster High School, Damon’s skills rapidly began to improve. Damron spent his summers swimming with the Highland Hurricanes under the direction of Nick Castillo. Paired with the input from the Griffith High School coaches, the training provided Damron with the skills he needed to succeed.
Damron’s hard work paid off. Last year at the 2018 sectionals, Damron broke the record in the 50-yard freestyle. Damron’s time of 22.51 broke the previous record held by David Schaffenberger in 1998.
Breaking the record did not slow down Damron’s commitment to succeed. Determined, Damron continued to hone his skills. In this year’s sectionals, Damron broke his own record in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 22.25.
“It felt good,” Damron said. “I worked really hard to get here. A lot of credit goes to my coaches. Thank you to all of the people who have helped me with training, including my high school coaches and Nick Castillo from Highland.”
With determination to improve, a strong support system, and a knowledgeable community of skilled swimmers to help him along the way, Damron shows no signs of slowing down.
“This time around, he’s going to be looking at Schaffenberger’s 100 freestyle record of 48.25,” Bolda said.
As the top swimmer received their first-place ribbons, other students hung their heads in defeat as their dreams of state disappeared. The boys congratulated each other on their efforts as they shook hands and wrapped up the IHSAA Boys 2019 Sectional Swimming & Diving Finals.
“It’s a fun meet,” Raffin said. “It’s a fun sectional. It’s a great day of swimming in Munster.”