There isn't one moment when Caroline Weigand realized she wanted to swim competitively. However, it's pretty easy to identify when the Homestead junior went from being a good swimmer to one of Indiana's best.
As a freshman, Weigand trimmed nearly eight seconds off her time in the 100 breast stroke. Now, two years later Weigand's continued to progress as she broke South Side's sectional record and placed third in the state in the event, the highest finish for an area swimmer this year. These accomplishments, along with being part of the fourth place 200 medley relay team and placing 16th in the 200 individual medley, are why she is the News-Sentinel Girls Swimmer-of-the-Year.
Weigand began swimming when she was eight years old in the summer for Fort Wayne Country Club, and said she just kind of realized she wanted to do it in the winter too. She became a member of the Southwest Allen County (SWAC) club teams and then “just kept swimming.”
Over the first few years her times improved but then came her freshman season. She was considered a solid local swimmer at the time according to Homestead and SWAC head coach Chad Englehart and a year with then-Homestead senior Tori Bagan provided a change to who she was in the pool.
“She (Bagan) really taught me discipline,” Weigand said. “Before I was in high school, I went from a 1:10 to a 1:02 my freshman year and that was quite a bit of a jump. Tori really pushed me on technique. She just encouraged me, motivated me, really got me serious about it my freshman year and she was such a big help to me, and kind of like a motherly guidance figure for me.”
Weigand was learning quick from Bagan, who already had a state championship and went on to win another that season. Englehart said Weigand was “like a puppy” in her attitude about absorbing and learning every day.
Weigand came into practice, asked what was being done, followed her mentor's lead and was able to grow free from the pressure of being the best in the area because the best was her teammate. It was a good situation to be in Weigand and Englehart both said.
“It's huge from the standpoint of she (Weigand) didn't have to plow the road because Tori was there with her, holding her hand and helping her and guiding her and taking a lot of the pressure off,” Englehart said. “All Caroline had to do was relax and go.”
It didn't take long for Weigand to announce herself at the state swimming level. As a freshman, she took fifth in the 100 breast stroke, “bursting” onto the scene according to Englehart.
This meant she had to learn how to emerge from being a follower to being chased. She didn't back down, taking third her sophomore year and having the top time in the state this season going into the state preliminary swim before taking third place again.
“She's starting to work into the maturity of doing it as a leader and not a follower,” Englehart said. “Now, she's trying to work into the leadership role and blossom and do that. I think each stage of her life presents new challenges and new opportunities for her. We're very hopeful for her as she goes into her senior year that she continues to progress and goes faster.”
With one year left, if Weigand does improve she has the chance to win a state championship like Bagan did, but that isn't her focus for next season. Weigand just wants to try and match her mentor in a different way.
“I know my freshman year, Tori was a senior and I would not be here today without her, so I just want to be the best swimmer I can be for my teammates,” Weigand said.
Well, she certainly absorbed plenty from Bagan about swimming. Seems to reason Weigand probably picked-up how to teach freshmen a few things, too.
2013 News-Sentinel All-Area Girls Swim Team
Georgia Baldus, Snider
Reagan Cook, Homestead
Courtney Kresl, Carroll
Michaela Mintch, Snider
Bailey Pressey, Homestead
Katie Krivacs, Homestead
Hannah Miller, Snider
Sarah Pushis, Carroll
Ciana Heaston, Carroll
Cady Farlow, South Adams
Bailey Willis, Homestead