Tinkers and tweaks boost both Raiders, Pats

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Southridge’s Taylor Seufert, right, hugged teammate Jade Jochem after winning the 400-yard freestyle relay with teammates Kyla Schwinghammer and Sydney Barrett during Monday night’s swim meet against Heritage Hills in Huntingburg. The Raider girls scooted by Heritage Hills 101-82, while the Patriots returned the favor with a 92-55 win in the boys meet. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

HUNTINGBURG — When Southridge swim coach Dick Taylor pulled aside the Raider girls’ 200-yard medley relay teams before Monday’s meet with Heritage Hills, the message probably wasn’t what Jade Jochem hoped to hear.

Taylor had tinkered with the Raiders’ lineup with wishes of nabbing not only the top spot but second place as well in Monday’s opening event to help negate the Patriots’ sweep of a diving competition not featuring a Southridge challenger.

So Taylor spelled it out for Jochem and the seven other Raiders: “If we don’t take the top two spots in this relay, we don’t win this meet.”

N. Gogel

Gulp.

With that, Jochem’s habitual nervousness ramps up a notch ... or nine.

She’s nervous in the days leading up to a meet, she’s nervous before the meet and she’s nervous in the starting blocks. Her mother, Kim Weiss, told Taylor that “around the clock, Jade worries about everything.”

What’s a little added pressure?

Once she hits the water, though, “you don’t think of anything except swimming,” Jochem said.

As Jochem’s quartet scurried to a first-place finish in the relay and the other Raider foursome nabbed second, it set the tone for the Southridge girls, who purged the disappointment from last year’s narrow defeat to the Patriots by jetting to a 101-82 victory at the Southridge High School pool. On the boys side, Heritage Hills earned its third straight triumph in the series, sliding past the Raiders 92-55 to salvage a split in the spirited early-season rivalry.

Throughout last season, Taylor witnessed a crop of young Raider swimmers, like Jochem and fellow sophomore Ellie Langebrake, develop from potentials to producers.

This season, those former projects are not only helping lead the Raiders, but affording Taylor the chance to tweak the lineup as he sees fit.

Monday, the changes abounded.

He split up the typical 200 medley relay team in hopes of taking first and second. It worked. He moved Kyla Schwinghammer and Langebrake into the 50 free. They snagged second and third, respectively, in a Southridge sweep. And with Taylor Miles removed from her usual slot in the 200 individual medley, Jochem stepped in and swiped a one-second win over Heritage Hills’ Sara Burns.

Motteler

“Every risk that we took in the lineup to try and win the meet and make up the diving, every one of them paid off,” Taylor said.

While Southridge’s typical anchors, Sydney Barrett (50 free, 500 free) and Miles (200 free, 100 free), earned the Raiders four of their 10 first-place finishes — including a relay sweep — the added depth was correspondingly clutch, Taylor said.

Especially Jochem.

The sophomore also edged Heritage Hills’ Meranda Jester by six-tenths of a second in the 100 backstroke for her second blue ribbon, then helped the Raider 400 free relay secure a 14-second win as Southridge’s final exclamation point.

Jochem’s two individual wins arrived by a combined 2.01 seconds. Ideal for a girl Taylor described as “a very nervous swimmer (who) will worry about stuff for weeks in advance.” However, “if anybody is in a tight race, and it requires a little extra at the end, she has the perfect temperament for it.”

“Jade had a lot to do with our victory here today,” Taylor said.

The victory could be used to springboard the Raider girls moving forward, Taylor said, but it could prove tough as their January schedule includes six meets in a 10-day stretch leading into the PAC meet.

Heritage Hills coach Phil Bradley’s assessment of his squads swayed from one end of the spectrum to the other. While he’s still hoping for improvement with his girls squad, the Patriot boys “came in and swam (and) were ready to race.”

And just as the Raiders showcased versatility with their shifting roles, Bradley’s bunch collared similar results to their win against Southridge last December while altering the methods as well.

While Drew McCutchan seized top finishes in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly in last year’s meet, the junior exchanged that for wins in the 200 and 500 freestyle this time around. Similarly differing, Logan Ayer touched the wall first in the 200 individual medley after claiming the 200 and 500 freestyle last year.

“That’s where we’re trying to get: where everybody can swim anything they want to swim, and where we need to swim them,” said Bradley, whose boys team amassed first-place finishes in six of eight individual races. “It’s really working out well where they are swimming everything and doing well.”

Bradley also lauded the emergence of some other guys as well, namely freshman Alex Braun and senior Nick Gogel, who placed second in both the 200 and 500 freestyle behind McCutchan.

Besides a refined focus on his technique, particularly in the 500 freestyle, Gogel attributes his strides to some familial fueling, as his younger brother Brady, a freshman, embarks on his swim campaign.

“My goal is to make a legacy for my brother to try to beat,” Nick said with a smile. “I know he’s going to try and one-up me when he’s a senior, so that just gives me the drive to work even harder.”

While Bradley fiddled with the lineup in some spots, he stayed more annually consistent in others, as Nick Waninger paddled to the top spot in the 100 breaststroke, and once again, Donovan Aders edged Southridge’s Luke Siddons in the 50 freestyle. Last year, Aders’ victory in the event came by five-hundredths of a second. Monday, Aders lengthened the advantage to three-tenths of a second as a frustrated Siddons, who had been sick the week prior, slapped the water as he viewed the scoreboard.

“He’s turning into a real racer this year,” Bradley said of Aders.

“It’s fun to watch. It’s why we come here, to see the races.”

Besides their top finishes in the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay, the Raiders’ newest talent also shined, as Christian Motteler surged to first in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. The freshman shaved 10 seconds off his previous best in the fly, leading to some audible gasps for air upon finishing.

As Bradley mentioned, the PAC clash offers a ramped-up stage that can be a revealing gauge for where the team stands, and “to see that much racing at the beginning of the season like this, you look forward to it.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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