Cats on board with new coach's taxing regime


Olivia Corya/The Herald
Addison Nolan helped Jasper churn to first place in the 200-yard freestyle in Saturday’s Wildcat Invitational at the JHS Natatorium. Jasper’s girls topped the field with Northeast Dubois placing sixth, while in the boys meet the Cats were third and the Jeeps fifth. For a gallery of photos, click here.


Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — You don’t automatically want to become friends with someone who yells at you at 5:30 in the morning while you’re running flights of stairs, lifting weights and doing plyometric exercises.

But Jenae Gill has a funny way of endearing herself.

The first-year Jasper swimming coach with the big smile and energetic attitude has her own style. She developed her own training regimen this season, and even though she makes it mandatory for kids to attend only twice a week, she sees some swimmers double that amount.


Workouts begin before sunrise. And not that the Wildcats would have any trouble finding their home pool, but if they did they always have a backup plan: Listen for Gill.

“She’s loud and she doesn’t care; her favorite line is, “I don’t care what you think,’” Jasper junior Addison Nolan said, laughing. “She just says whatever she can to make us better, and she knows how hard she has to work us. We understand when she’s mean — we know why — but she’s an amazing coach.”

Nolan gives the impression she doesn’t mind, smiling the entire time.

Still, Gill didn’t have much to be angry about Saturday, when the Wildcat girls swiped the team title in the six-team Wildcat Invitational at the Jasper High School Natatorium. Jasper (600 points) edged Terre Haute North (576), with Tell City (315), Evansville Reitz (278), Vincennes Lincoln (244) and Northeast Dubois (138) completing the field.

The Wildcats (317) finished third in the boys field, behind champion and 13th-ranked Bloomington North (693), which claimed all but two events, and Terre Haute North (384). Northeast Dubois senior Lucas Schulthies nabbed one of the other wins, taking the 50-yard freestyle (22.34) by fourteen-hundredths of a second in front of Bloomington North senior Jack Spore, who’s ranked ninth in the state in the event. Schulthies also finished runner-up in the 100 freestyle, finishing less than two seconds behind Spore.

The understated Schulthies said he “was pretty happy with that” 50 freestyle victory. He was also impressed with his teammates.

“This meet, we didn’t win it, obviously, but we did a lot better than what we did last year,” said Schulthies, whose team finished fifth, one spot better than last year. “I’m happy with (my teammates); they all worked hard and continue to do so in practice.”
Vincennes Lincoln (293), Northeast Dubois (202), Evansville Reitz (182) and Tell City (128) rounded out the boys’ scores.

Saturday represented different opportunities for both the Wildcats and Jeeps. For Jasper’s girls squad, it was the ability to make all that hard work in practice pay off against a competitive field.

“We knew that today was going to be a fast day, there were going to be fast teams here and we were just really determined to get first place in a lot of our events,” said Nolan, who seized the 100 backstroke (1:05.22) and teamed with Payton Painter, Claire Egler and Alissa Haas to win the 200 freestyle relay (2:01.18). Haas added a win in the 50 freestyle (26.59) and teammate Olivia Krodel (1:07.10) captured the 100 butterfly. Additionally, Jasper owned the top three spots in the 100 butterfly; Cady Mehringer and Shaina Dant finished second and third, respectively.

“We’ve had so many meets in the last 10 days that the kids were tired,” Gill said. “The kids really did an excellent job today being ready to swim even though their bodies were hurting and they’re mentally tired and physically tired.”

For the Wildcat boys, Cole Erny finished fourth in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 500 freestyle, and Mitch Mehringer came in third in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 100 breaststroke. Also for Jasper, Austin Young, Luke Hoffman and Harry Seng finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in diving. Erny was happy with his ability to help the Cats earn a fourth-place finish in the day’s last race, the 400 freestyle relay. In the 500 free, however, Erny said he had to fight against 100-yard split times that varied too much.

“Whenever you get fluctuations, that’s whenever it’s starting to go bad,” Erny said. “You want to be nice and consistent.”

For the last time this season, the Northeast Dubois girls featured junior Haley Brinkman, who is scheduled to have surgery on her right shoulder this week. She’s expected to miss the rest of the season, though Northeast Dubois coach Jennifer Wright is hopeful Brinkman can begin swimming in the summer and return for her senior year.

“It being Haley’s last meet, we wanted to send her off with good remarks and I think we did all right with that,” said Northeast Dubois senior Tylynn Schaber, who finished seventh in the 100 backstroke.

Brinkman finished seventh in the 100 freestyle and teammate Kaitlyn Bauer placed eighth in the 100 breaststroke.

Wright also praised freshman Taylor Knight, who finished 15th in the 50 freestyle, for continuing to drop times in the face of strong competition. That’s what the day was about for all the Jeeps, said their coach, who didn’t mind seeing her kids expressing themselves.

“Just coming to a big meet like this, just wanting to see those emotions come out of them, happy or sad, frustrated with themselves or whatever it may be, is just something that I want to watch,” Wright said. “They’re given that competition, let’s see how you can do.”

A few pleasant surprises also blossomed. Northeast Dubois’ Zach Wittmann responded to internal and external pressure, Wright said, as she saw him push himself harder and trying the backstroke for the first time. And Jasper wouldn’t have finished as high as it did in the boys race if it wasn’t for Young and Hoffman helping out in relays. Gill called it “impressive” that the duo chose to stick around and help when they could have left after diving was completed earlier in the day.

Like Nolan’s assessment of Gill, little quirks and extra work make a positive difference for the Cats. Gill said she and assistant coach Kristin Gutgsell are looking forward to the postseason when they’ll taper practices. The kids and coaches get along. And most importantly, everyone is getting better all the time.

“They’re a really focused and talented group of individuals,” Gill said. “I don’t think that some of them have even begun to tap into their talent and that’s what makes it so fun to coach these guys.”’

Contact John Patishnock at

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