Sleek Cats temper holiday temptations

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Mitch Mehringer churned to first place in the 100-yard breaststroke during Jasper’s clash with Southridge on Thursday at the Jasper High School Natatorium. Mehringer also won the 100 freestyle by eight seconds as the Wildcats breezed to a 128-8 victory. The Wildcat girls made it a sweep, rolling to a 113-62 victory. For a gallery of more photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — Oh, the holidays. A swimmer’s paradise. The most grueling training period on the season’s calendar coupled with a two-week stretch in which meals are bountiful and kids have nowhere to be during the frigid winter days. The aroma of Christmas honey-baked ham wafts through the house alongside the complements of mashed potatoes, stuffing and desserts galore.

B. Nolan

Yet there Ben Nolan was, responsibly consuming mass quantities of chicken, salad and vegetables.
Abstaining from anything the Jasper swimmer particularly craves?

“Ice cream. I miss ice cream a lot,” Nolan said, his eyes becoming starry. “Chocolate. With chocolate fudge.”

On the Wildcat girls side, Tabitha Pfaff took a slightly different approach: responsible quantities of Christmas delights. She indulged in the ham, turkey, macaroni and cheese and sweets. Just in reasonable portions.

Her favorites?

“Just everything. Anything. A whole bunch of everything,” the senior said. “Being a swimmer, you burn a lot of calories. So I basically ate what I wanted, just as long as I didn’t eat too much.”

Though Nolan’s and Pfaff’s consumption regimens may have differed, results earned by Jasper’s boys and girls teams in their first meet in more than two weeks were appealingly parallel in Thursday’s senior night meet against Southridge at the Jasper High School Natatorium. The Wildcat girls blazed to a 113-62 win over the Raiders while the Jasper boys topped a one-swimmer Southridge boys team 128-8.

After scurrying through six meets in an 11-day period before classes were dismissed for vacation, then going 17 days without a meet or invitational because of two cancellations, Jasper coach Jenae Gill was anticipating a slight lapse in Thursday’s heats. Nonetheless, her swimmers’ efforts, amplified by a strenuous couple weeks of training, pleased the first-year coach.

“With the way the holidays fell, and with the snow days and not getting in the pools, it’s been kind of hard for the kids,” Gill said. “Normally, right around Christmas time is the hardest part of the season. That’s when we do the hardest training. And we did, once we got in. They trained really hard.”

The results followed. The Wildcat boys swept first place in all 12 events. Cole Erny grabbed first place in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 2:00.28 and the 500 freestyle, clocking in at 5:21.15.

Nolan took first in two events as well; he swam the 200 individual medley in 2:24.43 and the 100 butterfly in 1:03.50. The two teamed with Alec Vennekotter and Mitch Mehringer to capture first in the 400 freestyle relay (3:50.70) as the Wildcats also took first in uncontested 200 freestyle and 200 medley relays.

Landon Boehm, the only boy who competed for the Raiders, set personal records and grabbed a pair of runner-up finishes. Boehm was second in the 200 freestyle and also in the 100 free behind Jasper’s Mitch Mehringer, who sped through in 54.67.

Boehm, who surprisingly admitted to feeling slow in the water Thursday despite his new bests, said looking at the dinner table on Dec. 25 was downright painful.

“Christmas day, I was hurting, definitely. I walked into my grandmother’s house and there was so much food,” said Boehm, who polished off one plate of ham, pulled pork and stuffing. “I walked in, I looked down. I was pretty depressed.”

With Pfaff setting new personal-bests in the 500 freestyle, placing behind only Southridge’s Taylor Miles (5:35.08), and in the 200 freestyle, with a fifth-place finish, the Wildcat girls garnered similar success to the Jasper boys. Alissa Haas, Cady Mehringer and Payton Painter earned first-place finishes in the 50 freestyle (26.97), 100 butterfly (1:06.13) and 100 breaststroke (1:18.91), respectively. And while Miles also snagged first in 200 individual medley in 2:20.20 for the Raiders, Haas took the top spot in the 100 freestyle in 57.78 for the Wildcats, teammate Addison Nolan finished first in the 100 backstroke and Jasper swept the three relays.

By Southridge coach Dick Taylor’s assessment, the results presented a mixed bag of feelings. With two boys out for a medical reasons and some swimmers failing to buy into the importance of holiday training, it wasn’t the effort he had envisioned.

“I was very disappointed. Only about half of our team embraced the Christmas training period,” Taylor said. “And that showed in many of the swims that we had today and some people not even swimming today.”

B. Barrett

Although, Taylor pointed out the Raider girls did shave 11 points off of last year’s differential against the Wildcats. He lauded the effort of Bailey Barrett, who placed second in the 100 breaststroke and “had a sensational meet.”

Likewise, Ellie Langebrake and Taylor Seufert swam well for the Raiders, Taylor said.

Gill half-jokingly admitted to some kids not fully understanding the depth of the Christmas conditioning. With confidence, she assured ambiguity won’t be a problem in the future.

“Christmas break allows you time to train a little bit longer without some of the other stressors, such as school, that they have to deal with on a daily basis. That break, that week and a half, they have holiday things at home, but when they come here, it’s time to work,” Gill said.

“Some of the kids, you could tell the balance wasn’t there, at all. Some of the kids knew what to expect. They knew, ”˜Hey, I can’t stay up late because practice is not going to be easy in the morning.’ I think it’s a learning thing. I really do. ... They just didn’t know what to expect. I kind of think we’re all going to be on the same page next year.”

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