Cats, Jeeps maintaining course amid changes

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Jasper’s Max Henke competed in the 500 yard freestyle during Jasper’s home swim meet against Northeast Dubois and Tell City Thursday night. Henke won the race with a time of 5:19.04 while the Wildcats placed first overall as a team finishing with a score of 106. On a team full of newcomers, Henke is one of the Cats senior leaders. For more photos from the meet, click here.


JASPER — It’s been a season of firsts for a lot of the local swim teams in the area: first-time head coaches, new approaches, and a new crop of kids jumping into the pool. But while that means a shift in approaches for some, for others it’s simply business as usual.

Jasper placed first overall in both the boys and girls swimming events, with scores of 167 and 106 respectively.

Tell City finished second with the girls earning 63 points and the boys earning 105 points. Northeast Dubois earned third place, with scores of 61 for the girls and 60 for the boys.

Both Jasper and Northeast Dubois saw changes at the top this season. Kristen Gutgsell, who was an assistant coach at Jasper, has stepped in this season as the Wildcats head coach.

Gutgsell is no stranger to the pool, as she has over 20 years of coaching experience under her belt, but that is not the case with some of her swimmers.

She has 13 kids who are new to the world of competitive swimming, but she embraces the challenge of getting them up to speed and comfortable in the pool. In addition to getting the new swimmers accustomed to the workouts and figuring out how things work at meets, Gutgsell said she is seeing them grow as athletes right in front of her eyes.

Amanda Schnell, who swam in four events on Thursday night, is going through her first season as a swimmer. She is a runner by trade, who originally joined the swim team to stay in shape during the cross country offseason, but she has found herself enjoying her time in the pool.

“(During) the first meet I was really nervous but I just jumped in and the adrenaline just rushed over me,” she said. “I came in and learned all the strokes. I’m really liking it, and a lot of my friends are on the team too so that’s really fun.”

“As far as integrating them into the team that’s never difficult,” added Gutgsell.

“You can’t win meets with just very good swimmers; you have to have those second and third swimmers that can come in and score those points. That’s key in trying to get all these new swimmers to keep working hard and keep competing.”

Jasper finished in the top three for the girls 200 medley relay, as Kate Weaver, Bella Roberts, Carmina Armstrong, and Lindsey Mehringer paced their heat with a final time of 2:07.23. The Wildcats also won the 200 medley on the boys side with the combination of Grant Hawkins, Dimitri Gordon, Jason Fleck, and Max Henke posting a winning time of 1:54.81.

On the individual side, Abraham De La Cruz swam season best times in the 200 (2:14.11) and 500 (6:00.44) freestyle, while Grant Hawkins swam a season best time of 1:00.10 in the 100 butterfly.

Leah Haas won the 200 Individual Medley (2:44.24) and 100 freestyle (1:03.08). Mia Ahner finished third in the 500 freestyle with a time of 7:06.62, a new event for her this season.

Jeep seniors Haleigh Meny, left, and Lauren Lorey, and sophomores Jared Young and Macie Brinkman laughed as they watched teammate Jordan Vittitow celebrate keeping his goggles on while warming up. The Jeeps have been getting accustomed to trying out new events and becoming all-around swimmers. For more photos from the meet, click here.

Northeast Dubois was also present and accounted for at Jasper, and head coach Kendra Friedman said that her team, in terms of the times they’re posting in the pool, is way ahead of where they were at this point last season.

“The times that they’re having right now are the times they were (posting) in January of last year,” she said. “I could not be happier about it.”

Friedman, who is also in her first season as the Jeeps’ head coach, credits the new and improved approach to the team’s dry land workout routine for the reduction in swimming times she is seeing this season.

“In the mornings we do a pretty tough weight program, and I’ve thrown in some running circuits for them,” she said. “The kids aren’t always loving when we have to run or lift weights, but I know that they know it helps them.”

She also thinks that her decision to move her swimmers out of their comfort zones and into different events is another factor in the team improvement she is seeing. She wants to get her athletes away from a single-event mentality, and develop them as wholistic swimmers.

“I’ve been trying to put kids in events they never swam before,” she said.

“I feel like it builds their confidence, and if you want to be a good all-around swimmer you need to try to be the best you can in all four different strokes. Those two things have really streamlined our season this year.”

The Jeeps had several standout performances amongst their individual swimmers.  Alex Bauer (58.61) and Harley Hall (1:10.69) took first and third respectively in the 100 freestyle.

Lauren Lorey placed first in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:23.11. Haleigh Meny, who has been swimming all season with bicep tendonitis in both shoulders, came in second in the 200 freestyle (2:37.21) and 100 backstroke (1:19.89).

“I’ve had to struggle through it all my high school career,” said Meny. “I have to know when I have to stop because I don’t want to injure myself more.”

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