Wildcats dominate pool on senior night

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Jasper’s Claire Witte elbow bumps Wildcats coach Kristin Gutgsell on senior night Thursday before the triangular against Heritage Hills and Pike Central. Witte won the girls 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and was part of the win in the 200 freestyle relay. Jasper’s girls won with a team score of 150 to 105 for Heritage Hills and 73 for Pike Central.


JASPER — Jasper honored its 17 seniors for senior night in the pool on Thursday, and the Wildcats made an emphatic statement on both ends of the pool in the triangular against Heritage Hills and Pike Central.

Jasper’s boys had a team score of 176 to 87 for Heritage Hills and 48 for Pike Central. The girls, meanwhile, finished with 150 team points, compared to 105 for Heritage Hills and 73 for Pike Central. The Wildcat boys won all but one event the whole evening, and Jasper’s boys finish the regular season undefeated in duals and triangular meets.

“We have got a really good core group of boys that have committed themselves to swimming,” Wildcats coach Kristin Gutgsell said. “They swim all year long and they work hard at it all the time. And it’s just been a progression of them...some of them have been swimming since they were seven, eight, nine years old, and that’s big when you have them dedicated like that, and that’s big when you have them dedicated like that and they’ve kind of been swimming through together.”

Gutgsell sees herself lucky that she has as much talent as she has to be able to do that. She mentioned Connor Nolan, Jack Henke, Mason Thornburgh, Alex Ramirez and Noah Wagner among that group. Gutgsell couldn’t leave out the contributions that Amos Buschkoetter and Grant Hawkins have made as seniors on senior night.

In fact, this year’s Jasper senior class on both sides brings sentimental value to Gutgsell.

“This specific senior group means a lot because they are my first class that I’ve actually coached all four years of high school,” she said. “This is my fourth year of being head coach of the high school team. So, this is my first class that I’ve had all four years. Obviously, a pretty group for that in itself, and obviously, having that many in that big of a group is big.”

Jasper had some competitive races on both sides Thursday evening. The 200 individual medley was a close one down the stretch between Avery Henke and Andi Vanmeter, but Avery came away with a narrow victory, 2:27.28 to 2:27.51. Avery and Vanmeter also went first and second in the girls 100 butterfly in another close one, with Avery’s 1:06.47 time edging Vanmeter’s 1:08.02.

Jack, meanwhile, won the boys 50 freestyle by a tenth of a second against teammate Luke Dawkins, 23.23 to 23.24, and the Wildcats did the same thing in the boys 500 freestyle. Wagner and Abe Eckman were engaged in a tight race with Wagner edged a close one, 5:10.62 to 5:10.74. Eckman did, however, win the boys 100 breaststroke against Dawkins, 1:08.34 to 1:11.02.

“It’s kind of the way it’s been all year with the team” Gutgsell said. “We’re having battles left and right for the A relay spots, and for sectional spots. Those guys have been battling back-and-forth all year long. It wasn’t really any different to me because I’ve been seeing them all year long.”

The Pats got their first win of the night when Elizabeth Williams emerged victorious in the girls diving event, and Pats coach Gary Ayer chalked up her win to experience.

Jasper senior Bennett Schmitt came away with the win on the boys diving side. However, Jasper also had multiple failed dives. Wildcats diving coach Kristy Vaughn said there were things the team could’ve done better, saying they don’t like to see the failed dives but still thought Jasper showed some good things.

The Wildcat girl divers will next be in action Jan. 23 at home when Jasper hosts the girls Southern Indiana Athletic Conference meet.

“Eleven-dive meet is always a different animal,” Vaughn said. “You don’t have to be outstanding, but you can’t have any weak dives. So, I felt like we had a few weak dives here that we definitely want to eliminate. We don’t have to be spectacular, but you do need to be consistent and solid.”

Drew Foertsch swims Thursday night for Heritage Hills. The Patriot boys finished in second place with a team score of 87. Jasper won with 176 points, and Pike Central came in third at 48.

The only boys win, the only swimming win, that Heritage Hills mustered on the evening came with Josh Halvorson prevailed over Thornburgh, 58.28 to 100:52, in the 100 backstroke.

“Josh wanted to go tonight,” Ayer said. “He let it loose for a change, and I think he was pretty happy with the swim. We’re working on some different things, and he worked on some things that he felt like he needed to work on, that he talked about. But, he took it upon and tried a couple of different things tonight in the backstroke, and it paid off for him.”

Heritage Hills is scheduled to be back at it in another triangular on Monday at Northeast Dubois, with Pocket Athletic Conference rival Tecumseh joining the Pats and the host Jeeps.

“We’re going to go race,” Ayer said. “It’s a Monday meet the same week we have girls conference (Jan. 23 at Boonville). We’re going to put some girls in some places, see what they can — guys the same way.”

Gutgsell, meanwhile, sees a lot of competition in the SIAC meet between Evansville Memorial, Evansville Reitz and Castle. She thinks the Jasper girls have a shot to win, but it’s going to take a lot. She knows her team has to keep training, and the team being out of the water for two weeks in December put them behind where they should be.

“We’ve got to kind of push through next week,” she said. “Normally, if it was a normal, maybe (I) would back off just a little bit and give them a little bit rest, but I’m not sure I can do that this year, and still be able to do what we need to do in three weeks for sectional.”

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