Jasper girls three-peat as swim champs

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Jasper junior Avery Henke (right) hugs fellow junior Jordan Biehl (left) of Southridge after Henke won 100 butterfly. It was one of three winning events to help Jasper win its third straight girls sectional championship.


JASPER — They were shut down for two weeks in December, and shut out of the pool in the opening race of the 200 medley relay due to a disqualification on a false start in the preliminaries two days prior. But by the end of the day, they stood as champions yet again.

Jasper scored 403 team points to come in first place in Saturday’s girls sectional meet for the third year in a row. The Wildcats won four different events — two regionals and two relays, as part of their three-peat, and they’ll be having five different girls compete at state across those four events.

“It was a great day,” Wildcats coach Kristin Gutgsell said. “Everybody stepped up — from our freshmen all the way to our seniors. It was a team effort. We needed everyone to do what we did today without our first relay being in the meet. So, for us to be able to pull out a championship without that — that was a big feat today, and I’m very proud of the girls.”

Juniors Avery Henke and Megan Matheis will especially make sure Jasper is well represented at state because both of them are state-bound in three different events. Matheis came in first place in the 200 freestyle, and teamed with Henke for wins in the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.

Henke, meanwhile, had a goal to be an individual sectional champion — and she can say she realized her goal after winning the 100 butterfly. She put the county rivalry with Southridge aside by hugging Raiders junior Jordan Biehl after winning the event.

“We go to Pike (Central) together for one of our classes,” Henke said. “And she came up to me the other morning and said, ‘I swear, if you don’t get this first place ribbon, I’m going to be mad at you,’ and I said, ‘Yes, Mom.’”

Matheis thought it felt “crazy” to be going to state in three events — especially after a two week shutdown period and the program having swimmers quarantined. She credits “a lot of adrenaline” to factoring in to three sectional wins in one day.

“Half the time, you can’t just coast on your own energy,” Matheis said. “You have to use your teammates’ energy as well.”

Henke felt the same way, but she was also sad that there wasn’t a crowd at Saturday’s sectional, since they provide a source of energy for her. She had to pull herself together and make her own adrenaline.

Jasper junior Megan Matheis is state bound, having won the 200 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay.

“I just got out of my head,” she said. “I’m a very in-my-head person. I got out of it, and I just did the best I knew I could.”

Gutgsell credited the two of them for being hard workers who have a swimming background — noted that Matheis swam when she was younger, and Henke swims year round.

“Both of them are very competitive,” she said. “They know what it takes to get up there and try to win the event, and both of them got it done today — swam their best times today. That’s what we want, that’s what we need.”

Senior Claire Witte will join Matheis and Henke in the two relays. Meanwhile, freshman Sophie Conrad will compete with them in the 200 freestyle relay, and junior Andi VanMeter will do the same in the 400 freestyle relay.

However, Jasper wasn’t the only local source for first place ribbons and standing atop the podium Saturday afternoon. Southridge tied for fourth place, and will be sending junior Claire Hentrup to state in the 50 freestyle, and junior Adi Luker to state in both the 100 backstroke and the 100 freestyle. Luker is the first Southridge girls qualifier to make it to state in two events since Amy Kaetzel became the head swim coach.

“It feels really good to finally win both of my main events at sectional,” Luker said. “It’s been my goal all year to win both of those events since I won the 100 free last year. I knew I had to work for the 100 back this year, and it just feels really good to finally meet my goals that I had all season.”

It feels “awesome” to Hentrup knowing that Luker will be joining her at state. Hentrup claimed her win in the 50 freestyle by less than a full second.

“I’m so happy,” Hentrup said. “I worked all year for this.”

Kaetzel spoke highly of both of her state qualifiers — believing that Hentrup wanted it so bad that she pushed until she had it, and she was also very excited and proud for Luker’s accomplishments in the pool.

“Adi’s just got a lot of talent,” Kaetzel said. “She works hard, she’s got a lot of drive and she’s a super-talented swimmer.”

Southridge junior Claire Hentrup celebrates her triumph in the 50 freestyle on Saturday.

Heritage Hills won’t be sending any swimmers to state, but that didn’t stop coach Gary Ayer from lauding the job his girls did in the pool on Saturday — especially considering the Patriots only had eight of them for the meet.

“I’ve been at this a long time, and they’re a true team,” Ayer said. “They cheer for each other. If one has a bad swim, they’re there to pick them up — either giving them that verbal support, or even in the pool. We had a couple swims today where a couple girls maybe didn’t swim as well as they had hoped, but the next race, we had girls picking those spots back up, and that’s what it takes. It’s not a whole lot of ‘I,’ they buy into the team concept, and they love being together.”

Ayer noted that he’s also excited for the future with how young his female swimmers are, with the hopes of one day being in the position Jasper was in on Saturday. He believes the Pats are on the right track.

Northeast Dubois will also have something to look forward to. The Jeeps scored 40 team points on Saturday, coming in 13th place, with their swimmers competing in the consolation events. Coach Kendra Friedman thought her swimmers performed well, though, and they’ll try to get to the sectional finals next year.

“It’s just trying to find that sweet spot — trying to find the events they can excel in the most, and then just getting that endurance,” Friedman said. “COVID, I think, impacted everybody this season with the quarantines — that didn’t help, but we just have to keep trying to recruit girls, and keep pushing.”

A couple of local divers are also on their way to Tuesday’s diving regional at Jasper. Southridge junior Ana Hewitt qualified for regionals for the first time in her high school career on Saturday. Hewitt sat in fifth place after five dives, but then she got into the top four for good during the next three rounds. She ended the day in the third place to cement a spot in the regional.

“I just made sure I kept the little things — like pointed toes, pretty tight muscles, just to make sure it looked clean and presentable,” Hewitt said.

Taylor Bachman did not expect that she would make it to regionals, but the Jasper junior led all divers after eight rounds, and she finished just a point shy of Pike Central senior Jenna Meyer for first place.

“There was one dive that I really tanked — I got threes on,” Bachman said. “I think if I would’ve done just a little better, I could’ve won, but it’s over. It doesn’t really matter.”

Southridge junior Adi Luker hugs coach Amy Kaetzel on Saturday. Luker won both the 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle races.

Bachman may have been surprised to get second, but Jasper diving coach Kristy Vaughn has believed in her the whole time.

“I told Taylor at the beginning of the season that my bar for her was set really high, and I know she didn’t quite think maybe I was thinking straight or something,” Vaughn said. “But I was like, ‘Just meet me half way, Taylor. I know you’ve got the ability.’ She dove really well today, (I’m) super-proud of her.”

Seniors Hannah Kluemper and Ella Kelly won’t be joining Bachman at regionals since only the top four advance. However, Kluemper came in fifth place and Kelly came in eighth, and Vaughn thought both of them dove well, too.

The top eight divers from regionals advance to state, and Bachman will have the chance to do so Tuesday in her home pool.

“That’s really awesome, too, we’re excited to host that,” Vaughn said. “We feel like we’ve got a nice facility and run meets well. So, we’re excited.”

Southridge junior Ana Hewitt dives on Saturday. Hewitt placed third to advance to regionals.
Jasper junior Taylor Bachman dives on Saturday. Bachman came a shade off of taking first place in diving, and qualified for regional.

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