Cats labor with lens on later objective

Olivia Corya/The Herald
Jasper’s Cole Erny returns to defend his 500-yard freestyle sectional crown for Jasper, which finished second behind 13-time sectional champion Bedford North Lawrence last winter and will look for its first sectional crown since 2007. Heritage Hills feels it can improve on last year’s seventh-place finish while Southridge and Northeast Dubois boast small rosters that each pack a punch.

Herald Sports Writer

As far as Jasper boys swim coach Jenae Gill is concerned, it never hurts to plan ahead. Even for a collision that might not arrive for another two months.

So Gill and assistant coach Kristin Gutgsell have already begun looking at the results of Bedford North Lawrence, which has captured the sectional title every year since Jasper last took the crown in 2007.

“We’ve got a great opportunity to win sectional and I want you to look forward,” Gill recalled telling her team. “It may seem far away right now, but it’s going to be here before we know it.”

The Wildcats claimed second behind the Stars in February, but Gill sees a couple factors that could change things this time around. First, the boys are driven to succeed — everyone from divers Austin Young and Luke Hoffman, who were on the board the first day of preseason and are quintessential arrive-early-stay-late practice hounds, to a couple freshmen who are already making waves.  And second, the Cats finally have a stock of swimmers deep enough to eliminate absences in events.

“Last year, we had a great group of boys, we just didn’t have enough. There were a few (meets) where we had one fewer than we needed in order to squeak out a few points here and there,” Gill said. “This team that we have this year, we have that ability.”

It comes from many sources. Cole Erny looks to defend his sectional crown in the 500-yard freestyle and is “hands down one of the hardest workers on the team,” Gill said. Friday, the senior busted out 9,000 yards in a three-hour training session. Junior Mitch Mehringer (sectional champ in the 100 breaststroke) also looks to best his school record in the breaststroke, and Gill anticipates he’ll claim the 200 individual medley record this season as well. Sophomore Ben Nolan has added strength through three-a-day summer practices and weight training and should factor into the butterfly, individual medley and relays, while senior Alec Vennekotter will be looked to for points in the 50 free and 100 butterfly. Along with Young and Hoffman, sophomore Harry Seng rounds out the diving trio.

Gill has also been impressed with freshmen Matt Head and Nick Pieper, who are expected to swim on the Wildcats’ top relay teams in their first season.

“The drive with our boys team is really fun to see. They get in, they get the work done and then they get out. There’s no messing around. They know what’s expected of them,” Gill said. “They’ve got some goals, and I think they want to reach those goals just as badly as Kristin and I do. And they know what it’s going to take to reach them.”

The end of football season couldn’t come soon enough for Southridge coach Dick Taylor. Simply because, before that point, practices consisted of only one swimmer.

With six of his seven boys playing on the sectional champion football team, Taylor and the Raiders have gotten a somewhat late start to preseason training. And as of last week, Taylor joked about the focus still not being completely pool-related.


“At this point, I’m just trying to get them recovered from football,” the second-year coach said. “I mean, they’re all beat up.”

So what’s the cure? Ice bath? Whirlpool?

“Well, that’s the best thing about swimming: You’re in the water,” Taylor kidded. “So I am rehabilitating them.”

Despite the delay, Taylor is excited about having a squad capable of filling all events this season — something that was impossible to accomplish with a team of five swimmers last year. And the Raiders’ success starts with the guy who’s been there since the first day of practice.

Freshman Christian Motteler, a year-round swimmer who opted out of football late in the year to focus on the upcoming swim season, set the middle school record in the 50 breastroke and also qualified for the Indiana Swimming Age Group Championships in the event. Senior Luke Siddons will churn in the sprint freestyle events and sophomore Raul Rodriguez will serve in backstroke events after reaching the consolation heat finals at sectional. Freshman Sam White will help the Raiders in the butterfly while classmate Dakota Giesler could be asked to expand to long-distance freestyle. Dakota’s older brother Dillon, a senior and co-captain along with Siddons, will be looked at to provide support in the breaststroke alongside Motteler. Trent Dischinger, a junior and football player who Siddons talked into joining the team, rounds out the roster.

Given the late start, Taylor admitted last week he “doesn’t even know what his boys team is like” yet because of the abbreviated preseason. Nevertheless, expectations will be modified accordingly.

“We define success as something that our swimmers can achieve instead of something we can’t,” Taylor said.

Though the Jeep squad boasts but four swimmers this season, Jennifer Wright couldn’t help but love what she arrived to see at Friday morning’s practice.

Her boys stood around the Northeast Dubois record board, scouring times, swimmers and years, eyeing where their names could potentially, eventually, be etched.

“They’re really trying to study (the times) and figure out, ”˜What do I need to do to get my name up there on that board?’” Wright said. “There setting those personal goals for themselves.”


The second-year coach admits records rewrites will take work, but from what she’s seen so far, the Jeeps are committing everything they have to getting it done.

Senior Justin Kahle (50 free, 100 free) returns after not swimming last season, and “knows what it takes to be a leader” after a successful cross country campaign this fall. Juniors Evan Bauer (200 free, 100 breaststroke) and Caleb Scherzinger (200 individual medley, 500 free) have set the tone as the first to submerge at morning practices and sophomore Kobi Knies will also slot into the freestyle sprint events.

Scherzinger, who was thrown into the 500 as a freshman, has expressed desire to Wright about breaking the program’s record in the long-distance event. And though he’s shaved time since last year, the biggest impediment may be the two relay heats he swims before the 500 in every meet.

Ah, the relays. An interesting concept for the Jeeps given that the team is “a relay in themselves,” Wright said. And the cohesion has strengthened away from the pool as well.

Continuing a tradition from the past year, the four boys are responsible for making breakfast each morning for themselves and the Jeep girls team at the conclusion of practice. (Don’t worry, the girls have clean-up duty.) And though the boys  “(bickering) back and forth,” Wright admits, “you can just tell they have that bond.”

“They’re always asking, ”˜Who’s bringing the eggs? Do we have enough butter? Do we have everything we need?’” she said. “But they get the job done.”

Just like in meet No. 1 on Tuesday, when the Jeeps edged Salem 52-47, after Wright’s swimmers had asked her during preseason if she thought they had what it took to squeak out a win this season. Question answered.

“They all set their goals and expectations high, and (assitant coach Tammy Schulthies) and I noticed that right away,” Wright said. “But that’s what they want to do, and that’s what we want to see. They don’t care. They believe they can reach those goals and they can break those records.”

Before practice, the Patriots enjoy a little goofing and guffawing. But surely the horsing around and pouring ice-cold water down people’s backs must peeve a coach sometimes, right?

“Not really,” Patriot coach Phil Bradley said. “I’m usually the one who does it.”

It’s a healthy, equilibrium, the second-year coach said. Heck, if he’s there, why should he have some fun, too?


Yet once it’s time to go, the Heritage Hills team knows it. And it’s full throttle from there.

“They love to have their good times,” Bradley said. “But it’s really neat that when practice starts, they’re ready to go. They’re not messing around anymore.”

The evidence of the instant mental switch has popped up all preseason, but perhaps was never better portrayed than the day the Patriots toiled through a Navy Seal challenge: run one mile, swim 500 yards, crank out as many push-ups and sit-ups as you can in two-minute periods and end with a max-out on pull-ups.

Another day, the Patriots burned through four 50-yard sprints at the end of practice. When Bradley threw a curveball into the equation, saying each swimmer had to beat his best time in order to end practice, it didn’t take more than two tries for any swimmer to wrap up the workout.

“As soon as practice gets going, it’s real serious,” Bradley said.


So far, it’s been juniors Drew McCutchan, a year-round swimmer, and Logan Ayer, a likeable motivator whose work ethic rarely subsides, who have offered leadership to a team that boasts four freshmen. Senior Nick Gogel has also cranked up the intensity in practice, Bradley mentioned.

Freshman Brady Gogel should represent the Pats in the butterfly, and freshman Alex Braun will compete in the backstroke. Nick Gogel, a senior, has improved his freestyle technique while junior Nick Waninger (breaststroke) offers experience as well. Senior Donovan Aders, who finished fourth in the 50 free consolation heat at sectional, returns to guide the sprints for Heritage Hills.

And after a year without a diver, the Pats now have two. Maybe. Bradley hopes junior Dax Detzer can provide big points in the event, while Alec Kratzer has experimented with diving as well. If he stays with it, Bradley sees potential in the freshman.

And that’s been the mantra for the entire Patriot squad, which finished seventh at sectional last February.

“I think we’re capable of moving up a lot more than seventh (place) this year. I really feel like we can swim a lot better than we did last year,” Bradley said. “And the great thing about it is that they want that also.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at

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