With A Little Gamesmanship, Tigers Earn Split With Culver Academies

Zach LaLonde swims the 500 free during a meet with visiting Culver Academies Tuesday night. (Photos by James Costello)

WARSAW — With girls sectionals looming just two weeks away and Warsaw and Culver Academies set to be each other’s main competition in the state tourney-opener, the Lady Tigers and the Eagles were keeping their cards close to their chests Tuesday.

So the results from that dual will have to be taken with a grain of salt, although Warsaw head coach Anthony DeBrota was happy with what he saw from his girls despite a loss. And he was certainly pleased with his boys’ dominant win as the Tigers demonstrated they’re likely in a class of their own at their sectional, set to begin Feb. 20.

“It was good. We always want to win, for sure, but I know that Culver doesn’t always come in with their sectional lineup. I know they’ve got some tricks so I don’t always like showing my cards, too. That was the big story of it. I’m just glad it was a close meet for the girls all the way in,” DeBrota explained.

“Boys, a little different perspective. We’re looking for just state at this point. Sectionals, we’re going to have some good races, but we want to make sure we have some good relays, some good times when we go down to Indianapolis.”


Grant Knight leads in the individual medley.

If this is going to be the year Culver Military unseats the 12-time defending sectional-champion Warsaw boys team, Tuesday’s result certainly didn’t lend any credence to the notion.

The Tigers earned wins in 10 of 12 events — including two of three relays — while moving to 9-1 on the season.

Grant Knight was 4-for-4 atop the podium with individual wins in the individual medley (2:05.68) and breaststroke (59.84) as well as in the medley relay (1:42.79) alongside fellow seniors Zach LaLonde, Nick Bazzoni and Mel Littlefield and the 200 free relay (1:32.77) with LaLonde, Bazzoni and junior Michael Ray. LaLonde earned additional wins in the 500 free (5:30.87) and backstroke (1:02.03), Ray was a winner in the 200 free (1:52.9) and 100 free (50.5), Nathan Taylor won the butterfly (58.61), Littlefield won the 50 free (22.97), and Ray, Littlefield, Taylor and Jacob Monesmith combined for first place in the 400 free relay (3:35.02) as well. Greg Rodriguez placed third in the diving portion of the meet with a score of 151.15.

“Our seniors are top of the line. I remember senior night against Plymouth, I remember looking at them saying ‘This is probably one of the best senior classes since I’ve been here, I think.’ We’ve got breaststroke in Grant. Even Nick Bazzoni is a solid breaststroker for us. Zach LaLonde, great distance, backstroker. I think what makes these guys so special, too, is we can utilize them in almost any event,” said DeBrota.

“It’s going to be sore to see them leave, but, hey, we’ve still got another six weeks.”


Melissa Deming races to the wall in the breaststroke.

Warsaw’s girls may have fallen short of their CGA counterparts with Tuesday’s modified lineup, but they were close all the way.

The Lady Tigers earned wins in four events and also benefitted from seven second-place results opposite their sectional-rivals.

Mariana Malagon recorded wins in the 100 free (58.73) as well as in the medley relay (2:04.01) with Melissa Deming, Taylor Gunter and Macelyn Marcuccilli and was second in the IM (2:24.93) and in the 400 free relay (4:01.19) with Lily Boston, Gracie Scholl and Rachel Doyle. Gracie Willig was tops in the 500 free (5:47.21) and second in the 200 free (2:10.95), Deming was first in the breaststroke (1:18.58), Gunter placed second in the fly (1:05.61) and in the 200 free relay with Scholl, Lily Boston and Marcuccilli (1:47.88). Marcuccilli also finished third in the 50 free (27.27), and Megan Metzger was second in the diving competition with a score of 174.9.

“Our captains have done a stellar job,” said DeBrota. “Taylor has really stepped it up this year. We even have a sophomore, Mariana Malagon, 100 freestyle, she’s really been picking it up. Looking at her, you wouldn’t think she’s a top tier swimmer for us, but she’s got some competitiveness that, when you see that in a swimmer, you know they’re going to be something special.”

The next time they see each other, the Lady Tigers and the Lady Eagles might look a little different, too, which could shake things up at the Warsaw Sectional, where CGA is hoping to win its third straight title. And with two weeks left, you never quite know who could emerge in the meantime.

“Normally by the time you get back from Christmas break, you want to have your lineup pretty well set. At this point, I’m just looking at different tests,” explained DeBrota.

Taylor Gunter swims the butterfly.

While Warsaw’s boys improve to 9-1, the girls slip to 5-4. The Tigers will return to action at LaPorte Saturday at 10 a.m.

“It’s been a very strong season. Even when we get a loss for the girls — boys, we’ve been pretty strong, just one loss — but any loss you can’t complain when you’re getting the PRs that you are, from the diving side and the swimming side,” DeBrota said. “It’s hard to be upset when you see those results. Hopefully we’ll get the wins when they matter, but for now we’re just having fun seeing the times drop and points go up.”