Cats striving for sustained successNovember 12, 2020
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
JASPER — As the Jasper Wildcats dive into the pool during practices, head coach Kristin Gutgsell’s helpful words serve as beacons of encouragement. During the last two years, Gutgsell and the Wildcats have established a blueprint for proficiency.
Now, Jasper is tasked with building upon its sectional titles.
“We’ve got a core group of swimmers that have dedicated themselves to swimming all year long,” Gutgsell said. “That’s hopefully going to pay off here this year. That’s one of the goals. We’re looking forward to seeing how that happens.”
The girls side of Jasper’s seasoned bunch brings a remarkable amount of experience to the deck. Gutgsell recognized junior Avery Henke and senior Claire Witte as two student-athletes who refined their crafts in the summer. Still, the Wildcats must navigate some uncertain waters.
“We’re going to have to have backups for our varsity in case someone gets stuck,” Gutgsell said. “We’re going to have to fill them in really quickly to be able to compete in meets. Luckily, we have a large team. That’s definitely going to help us out.”
Because swimming demands a high level of commitment, that flexibility will be crucial throughout the campaign. When the Wildcats met with their coaches in October, Gutgsell reiterated a meaningful message to the student-athletes.
“When you put on a Jasper T-shirt or a Jasper swimming shirt, you are representing the school and this program,” she said. “It means a lot. Whether you’re here at the pool performing or you’re out at a restaurant, you’d better be representing those T-shirts well. We try to do that. Obviously, there’s a big line of success that’s behind that. We try to do the best that we can.”
When analyzing the sport’s totality, diving cannot be overlooked. Jasper diving coach Kristy Vaughn touched on the importance of accumulating additional points through dives.
“Our sectional hasn’t had a full roster of divers,” Vaughn said. “We haven’t had 16 or 20 divers in a long time for both boys and girls. That has helped us a little bit. If we can fill three spots on the girls side where we don’t expect to have 16 coming in, everybody is going to score. The luxury of having separate diving space gives us more dives and more practice time.”
According to Jasper’s official roster, junior Taylor Bachman and senior Ella Kelly will dive for the girls team this season. On the boys side, freshman Mitchell Mauck joins the talented senior group of Seth Eckert, Owen Franks, Eli Hopf and Bennett Schmitt.
“It’s a fun spot to be in,” Vaughn said. “The challenge will be knowing what happens with our meets. Normally, we have the ability to put in some extra people and give other people opportunities to see who will be the best for the varsity spots. We don’t know what that’s going to look like with COVID.”
Seniors Amos Bushkoetter and Grant Hawkins will join forces with a deep junior class. That experience will prove paramount as the Wildcats transition to the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (SIAC).
“I think the boys have a legitimate shot at winning the conference this year,” Gutgsell said. “That’s obviously going to be a goal.”
The girls begin their season at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Tell City Relays. On Wednesday morning, the Tell City athletic department confirmed to The Herald that no fans will be allowed at the meet.
“We’re going to have to work through this season,” Gutgsell said. “We’re going to do the best that we can. We’re just hoping that everybody does their part to try to help us keep everybody healthy.”
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Forest Park was eliminated by South Spencer Tuesday night.
Josie Yarbrough is continuing her tennis career at Marian University.
Southridge is moving on in Sectional 48.