Jasper tapping into swim teams' full potentialNovember 19, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — The air is getting colder, but the water is about to heat up as the Jasper Wildcats prepare to take to the pool for another exciting swim season.
Wildcats coach Kristin Gutgsell said this year’s group is the biggest she has ever fielded — with more than 50 swimmers on the roster between the boys and girls teams — going into her third year at the helm of the swim program. Gutgsell is excited to be working with the swimmers and whipping them into shape for another campaign in the water. Last season, both the Jasper boys and girls teams won conference and sectional titles for the first time in the history of the program. Gutgsell is looking forward to working out how to integrate all the potential this year’s team has lying in wait to see if they can repeat the feat.
“We have a lot of new, a lot old,” Gutgsell said. “We’re going to piece the puzzle together to try to win the two meets that we have at the end of the year.”
With only a few weeks in the pool for the girls ahead of today’s Tell City Relays, and even less time with the boys, Gutgsell said the team does not stand out in one area or the other when it comes to the sprints or longer distance events. However, she does have plenty of swimmers that have veteran experience in both events, so the focus for them will be sharpening techniques to cut time and working through the relay combinations to formulate the best collective of swimmers as the season progresses.
Sophomore Megan Matheis on the girls side will be getting back in the water once again after winning individual sectional titles in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard freestyle last season. She was also part of the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relay teams that represented the Wildcats at last year’s state meet. She’ll be joined by junior Leah Haas and sophomore Avery Henke, who were also part of the state relay teams. Senior Madison Mathies figures to be a heavy point-netter in the distance events. Senior Mayson VanMeter and sophomore Andi VanMeter will also be key contributors for the girls team. Senior diver Olivia Biggs, who finished third in sectional and went to regional last season, returns to walk the plank once again for the Wildcats.
Gutgsell said it’s too early on the boys side to tell just where everyone will end up being placed, as they just started practicing this week. But she is excited about the sophomore swimmers who spent their offseason working their proverbial fins and getting stronger in preparation for the season. Among those swimmers are Connor Nolan, who took second in the 200-yard individual medley in sectional, and Abe Eckman, who finished third in the 500-yard freestyle. Seniors Abraham de la Cruz and Drew O’Neil will be looked to for points and leadership in the pool.
Gutgsell said Jasper’s main goal for the season is improvement during every outing this winter, whether that means demonstrating better technique or just getting faster as the team marches ever closer to sectional. Outside of that, the coach will use the bigger meets against sectional opponents as a gauge for how the swimmers are doing, and work out the logistics of who goes where in the water to maximize the competitive benefit for the Wildcats.
“As we compete against the sectional teams, I always judge how we’re stacking up and try to come up with the best lineup to compete,” she said. “As long as I’m seeing improvement in their individual times, then I know we’re going in the right direction.”
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