Winning region swimming and diving titles has become old hat for Paul Laurence Dunbar. The Bulldogs have won eight straight combined trophies and 14 of the last 15. The girls have taken six straight region crowns while the boys have only won four straight.
The road to another regional sweep will be a little different in 2016. The KHSAA expanded the number of regions from five to nine beginning this season, decreasing the number of participants at each regional meet. Lexington’s eight schools, along with many other Central Kentucky schools, now compete in Region 8.
Fourth-year Dunbar coach Sydney Witzky, a Nashville native who swam for the University of Kentucky, said the slight dip in numbers for regional competition changes the game a bit.
“We used to have this huge advantage because we have a lot of real fast kids at the top, and a lot of other schools do too, but we had a huge amount of depth on our team,” Witzky said. “Now that the amount of people in the meet is a little bit lower, you’ve got other teams whose depth makes a little more of an impact now than it used to. It’ll be interesting.”
Madison Winstead, one of four top-30 girls’ swimmers in the class of 2016 committed to UK, highlights the Dunbar girls. Witzky anticipates the senior having her best regional and, subsequently, state meets because she’s honed in on training for the Olympic Trials this summer. She plans on tapering before state to help improve her performance there.
As for the boys, no one swimmer stands (floats?) apart from the others in terms of raw ability. “We’ve got a group of five seniors who all have state potential,” Witzky said. She’s also impressed with how talented her group of freshman boys is. “Because they’re freshmen they’re dropping time like crazy. I think those kids are going to surprise themselves.”
Lexington Catholic’s boys and Tates Creek’s girls figure to be in the mix for team titles as well. All the participants can breathe a sigh of relief regarding at least one aspect of the meet: it will again be held at Stivers Aquatic and Wellness Center in Barbourville.
Falling Springs Center in Versailles was initially pegged to host because of its proximity. Its inability to provide warm-up/warm-down lanes led coaches to vote for a move back to Stivers, the host for the old Region 5 meets which were comprised of teams from Central and Eastern Kentucky. Falling Springs will instead host Region 6, which includes Woodford County, East Jessamine, West Jessamine, Frankfort and Franklin County, among others.
“As far as my team’s concerned, all the parents, all the swimmers, they’re thrilled that they moved it back to Barbourville,” Witzky said. “That’s the most important part, the swimmers’ attitude about the meet.”
Region 9, in which those Eastern Kentucky teams are now aligned, also will hold its regional meet at Stivers this weekend. The Region 9 finals will begin at 9:45 a.m. Saturday with Region 8’s to start about 3 p.m.
“Should be exciting,” Knox Central swim coach and Region 9 manager Dee Dole said in an email.
Swimming and diving regionals
When: About 3 p.m.
Where: Stivers Aquatic and Wellness Center in Barbourville