Wildcats remain on fast track

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Emma Hopf, left, and Alissa Haas psyched each other up before competing in the 100-yard freestyle during Saturday’s Wildcat Invitational at the Jasper High School Natatorium. Hopf and Haas finished second and third, respectively, in the event, and the Wildcats claimed first place in seven of 12 events to claim the team title. For a gallery of more photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — Swimming is not a sport that allows for much strategy. In longer races like the 200- or 500-yard freestyle, there’s some time for pacing and measuring lap splits, but that may be it.

For sprinters like Jasper freshman Emma Hopf, there is only one way to swim.

 “Just go really, really fast,” the freshman explained. “Everything fast. The turns have to be fast, the kick; everything.”

In case it’s not clear, that way is fast.

It’s also the strategy the Jasper girls team employed in their win at Saturday’s Wildcat Invitational at the Jasper High School Natatorium. The Cats (568 1⁄2 points) finished first for the fourth consecutive year, more than 150 points  ahead of second-place Evansville Reitz (412). Terre Haute North (394), Evansville Mater Dei (368) and Tell City (241) rounded out the top five and Northeast Dubois (114) finished sixth at the seven-team invite.

Bloomington North (592) paddled to first place in the eight-team boys meet, and Jasper (446) finished second to beat Terre Haute North (394) for the first time in four seasons. Mater Dei (295) and Reitz (134) were fourth and fifth, respectively, and the Jeep boys (108) finished seventh.

Hopf has wasted little time assuming the lead in her first varsity season. Saturday, she swam a season-best 25.40 in the 50 freestyle — a full second ahead of the next finisher.

“It’s really fun. It just feels good to be kind of good-ish. I don’t know how to say it,” Hopf said with a laugh when explaining her early-season success. “It’s really fun, though. Training pays off.”

Hopf is just one of a deep group of sprinters that Jasper coach Jenae Gill relies on for points and energy. On Saturday, Hopf, Alissa Haas (third) and Claire Egler (fourth) were top-five finishers in the 50, and Hopf and Haas also took second and third, respectively, in the 100 freestyle. The Wildcats’ 400 relay team (Cady Mehringer, Haas, Addison Nolan and Hopf) took the top spot for the fourth straight meet. It’s the kind of results Gill has come to expect.

“We always look to our sprinters to really get us ahead, especially in the standings and pointwise because we’re so deep,” Gill explained. “They all cut times in the 50 and the 100 freestyle. Every time the girls are going in, they are getting faster, which is exactly what we’re looking for especially at this time in the season.”


Jasper’s boys also boast an impressive roster of sprinters. Senior Jackson Beckman, who missed all of last season after he had had his large intestine removed, took first in both the 50 and 100 free. The 50 was especially exciting as he beat out Bloomington North’s David Bright by 0.24 seconds. The 400 relay team (Matt Head, Cole Erny, Mitch Mehringer and Ben Nolan) also joined in the action, capping the meet with a come-from-behind victory (3:32.66) over Bloomington North (3:33.46).

It’s those types of performances from the boys and girls teams that Gill says gives her squads some extra pep every meet.

“It gets the team back in it,” Gill said. “Especially after sitting here for a few hours, everybody is kind of getting tired. ... When we have great swims from anyone, it kind of brings the morale back up. It gets the team pumped.”

Ben Nolan (100 butterfly) and diver Austin Young were the other individual winners for the Wildcat boys, and the 200 medley relay team of Beckman, Mehringer, Nolan and Alec Vennekotter finished first as well.

For Northeast Dubois, coach Jennifer Wright says the biggest challenge for her teams is entering a much more competitive environment. She said that both her squads performed well against a strong field and was also complimentary of her own sprinters — even if it comes with a slightly different set of expectations.


“This is the first-year (Allison Schroering) has ever swam,” Wright said. “She was so nervous. She was like, ”˜I’m going to get last. I’m not very good.’ She went (41 seconds) today in the 50, which isn’t the best time, but she beat someone and to see her face, she was so excited. She beat someone and was two or three seconds faster than Tuesday, so just seeing that she could do it was very rewarding for me and for her.”

The fourth-place 200 freestyle relay team of Hannah Beckman, Kaitlyn Bauer, Taylor Knight and Haley Brinkman represented the highest finish on the day for the Jeep girls. Northeast Dubois’ 200 medley relay team (Brinkman, Bauer, Amanda Seng and Knight) landed sixth place, and Brinkman was eighth in the 200 freestyle.

For the Jeep boys team comprised of just four swimmers, Kobi Knies and Justin Kahle earned top-10 honors in the 50 freestyle. Knies took sixth with his first sub-25-second performance of the season and Kahle finished three-spots later in ninth. The 200 relay team of Evan Bauer, Kahle, Knies and Caleb Scherzinger finished fifth.

“We really do like coming here because they do (receive) this experience and know what it’s like and their nerves are a little calmer now,” Wright explained about her teams.

“I think it pushes some of them to go a little bit faster,” she added. “They are usually first or second and then they come here and there is higher competition. … They’ll watch and say, ”˜Oh, look at that guy’s breaststroke,’ or kind of take notes on what others are doing.”

For the Jasper girls, the win was another page in what’s been a dominant first chapter of the season. Saturday, the Wildcats won seven of 12 events with five individual champions.

“It just kind of shows that our team works hard and we’re doing really well,” Hopf said. “If we keep training like the way we are, we’ll be able to go even farther.”

“It’s just really fun to win,” she added.

Especially when you’re fast.

Contact Joseph Fanelli at jfanelli@dcherald.com

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