Jasper wins swimming sectional, advances 7

BY JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

JASPER — It had all led to this moment.

For the 12 girls swim teams that assembled at Jasper High School on Saturday, everything the swimmers had worked towards as they swam countless laps in practice, honed their various stroke techniques and cut their time from meet to meet was another step in the buildup to the sectional showdown. While some teams were happy to be there and compete, others had their sights set on a higher prize.

But there can only be one top finisher, and that honor went to the host Jasper Wildcats, as they scored 462 overall points to win this season’s sectional title. Bedford North Lawrence and Tell City scored 355 and 285, respectively, to round out the top three finishes.

Wildcats coach Kristin Gutgsell set the goal of winning sectional for the team at the beginning of the season, and everything that came afterward was in the pursuit of the title. With the Wildcats winning seven of the 12 events at the conclusion of the meet, Gutgsell and the team couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

“The girls have worked really hard,” she said. “They did everything I asked them to do, it’s always fun to see that come to fruition and have them achieve the goals they had set forth for the season.”

Wildcats senior Carmina Armstrong took first place in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle (24.6 and 53.61). Freshman Megan Matheis won the 200-yard freestyle (1:58.27) and the 100-yard breaststroke (1:09.43). They both were also part of the top finishing 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relay teams (1:42.5 and 3:43.04), along with senior Riley Sample, sophomore Leah Haas and freshman Avery Henke. Senior Zoe Biggs also took first overall in the diving portion of the meet, finishing with a score of 341.05.

“I’m very happy with how we swam,” Armstrong said. “All of us did great. We brought it and came home with a sectional title. We were a little nervous on the last relay. Since 2004, we haven’t lost (400-yard freestyle) relay, so we were a little nervous. But we were like ‘we got this’ the whole time, and we showed up and got it.”

The Southridge Raiders finished in fourth place with 253 points. Freshman Adi Luker earned third place in the 100-yard freestyle (57.32), as well as second overall in the 100-yard backstroke (1:04.29). She also swam the anchor leg for the Raiders’ 200-yard freestyle relay (1:47.50) team, which took third place on Saturday. Junior Evie Sherer also finished fourth overall in diving with a score of 303.1.

“Everyone did the best that they could and pushed themselves to their limit,” Luker said. “Being a freshman, it felt good to get those positions. I worked hard in practice and I didn’t expect to get that high. But getting second in my backstroke put a smile on my face. Getting third in my 100 free [event] made me happy.”

Raiders coach Amy Kaetzel called the fourth-place finish an accomplishment when you consider the small size of their swim team. The Raiders had to contend with several of their swimmers getting lost to injury or other circumstances outside of the pool that narrowed their numbers, but Kaetzel said the swimmers who stuck with the team and made it to sectional gave it their all, and she couldn’t be prouder of their achievement.

“They came out with really good times, I was really proud of all of their effort,” Kaetzel said. “I’m sure we’ll learn from some things that we did today. We got a lot of freshmen this year. Hopefully they all come back again a little faster.”

Heritage Hills coach Gary Ayer had hoped his team would be able to secure a top-six finish in sectional, and the Patriots did just that when they finished in sixth place with 170 points. Their top performance came in the 200-yard freestyle relay — a team consisting of freshman Lillian Gogel, junior Brittany Crosby, junior Emily Porter and senior Abigael Frederick — which finished fourth (1:51.29). Frederick also took fourth place in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:12.55).

“I’m very pleased with the way we swam,” Ayer said. “Most of the girls had their best times of the year, and you always hope for that to happen. Top six would be a huge accomplishment for as small a group as we’ve got, and I’m thrilled with the way we swam.”

“I think they put in a lot of effort this season,” Frederick added. “We’ve dropped a ton of time. We’re right where we need to be for next year. I think they can see what they can do, and they can work even harder next year, drop more time and, hopefully, make it to state.”

Forest Park and Northeast Dubois finished in ninth and 10th place, respectively, with final tallies of 78 and 72 points. Junior Josie Berg took third in the 200-yard freestyle (2:01.87) and second in the 100-yard freestyle (55.81). She wishes she could have finished a little better in the 200, but she was proud she was able to cut 10 seconds off of her previous best time in the event.

“The team did great. We cut a lot of time on Thursday, and then we cut even more time today,” she said. “It was really cool to see how much everyone has grown this year.”

“They did great. They took off lots of time, I couldn’t have asked for them to do anything else,” added Rangers coach Rachel Berg. “They’re excited about getting back in the pool, and they’re always trying to recruit more swimmers.” 

Jasper will bear the torch for Dubois County as Armstrong, Matheis, Sample, Haas and Henke will all move on to state. Zoe and Olivia Biggs, who took third place in diving with 305.75 points, will move on to diving regionals on Tuesday to try and punch their ticket to state.

For the rest of the Wildcats, Gutgsell hopes they remain active in the pool through age group swimming in the offseason so they can not only maintain, but keep on getting better as swimmers so they can have that head start of the rest of the competitive pool when swim season rolls around again next year.

“I hope they [don’t] wait until next season,” she said. “I’m hoping I can get a lot of them to keep swimming year round, so when they come in next year they’re already that far ahead of where they were.”




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