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Simpson, Rector lead Arabians to sweep of Shelbyville

Jan. 9—PENDLETON — The swimming and diving season seems to be over in a flash. After a few early meets, the kids and coaches enjoy their Christmas break, then it is time for conference championships and a final few weeks before the postseason begins.

Pendleton Heights is on the cusp of that final drive before sectional, looking at its lineups and cutting time as it heads into the brutal competition that is the IHSAA postseason.

"This meet I decided to swim a couple kids off from their standard strokes, just to give them a little bit of a break," PH coach Amanda Safford said. "Every so often when we get closer to our championship season, I take that opportunity to switch it up a little bit."

Senior Jacob Simpson enjoyed a particularly successful sectional last season, qualifying for the state finals in both the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly. While he sat out those two events in Tuesday's dual meet against Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Shelbyville, the Arabians had plenty of firepower to sweep the night in convincing fashion.

Simpson won three times for the boys in a 111-62 win while junior Ella Rector took home four first-place finishes to lead the girls to a 111-52 win to start a busy week for the Arabians.

Simpson won the 200-yard individual medley and teamed up with Evan McKinney, Eli Brindley and Ian Christian to take the 200-yard medley relay to open the meet as well as the 400-yard freestyle relay to close out the competition.

Despite the switch up in the lineup, Simpson is happy with where he is and where his trajectory is headed at this point in the season.

"So far, my fly has been really good," he said. "Backstroke is right about where I want it to be, a 56 (seconds) in there somewhere, trying to get back down to 52 and break my record again."

McKinney also took first place in two individual events, the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle races, while Christian was also a winner in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle events. With Nick Radcliffe taking the diving event with a score of 170.50, the Arabians won eight of the 12 boys events.

While not competing at the varsity level, Simpson also fulfilled a career-long goal of diving for PH. After begging the coaches to give him an opportunity on senior night later in the season, an opportunity presented itself on this night to compete.

Simpson had to do the diving equivalent of cramming for a final exam.

"I was at four dives. Today they said (Shelbyville) had no divers and they're letting JV divers go, would I want to do it?" he said. "I said I wanted to do it. I had 10 minutes, and I learned two new dives. Some of it was muscle memory, but I did it."

"I think this is one of those where he wants to get this out of his system," Safford said. "I promised him at some point we would let him have his one shining moment. You could put Jacob anywhere, and wherever he lands, he's going to do a good job."

The PH girls also won eight of their 12 events with Rector leading the way.

Individually, she took the 100-yard backstroke and edged teammate Mallory Gentry in the 50-yard freestyle. She also teamed up with Gentry — as well as Kennedy Safford and Clara McIntyre — to win both the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay races.

"Her times are falling right now. For example, her backstroke she's in a really good spot," Coach Safford said. "Her times are where I would like them to be. She's been hitting her marks pretty consistently and hitting goals for herself."

McIntyre (200-yard individual medley) and Gentry (100-yard freestyle) also took home top prizes for the Arabians while Emily Holbert won the diving competition with a score of 151.50 and freshman Addyson Gaw took first in the grueling 500-yard freestyle with a time of 6:27.59.

The Arabians will travel to Delta for a Thursday dual meet before the PH boys head to New Palestine for the HHC championships. The PH girls placed sixth in the HHC — also at New Palestine — over the weekend.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.