Wildcats roll with rough requirements

Photos by Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper swimmers Chase Thornsberry, left, and Cady Mehringer laughed while trying to warm each other up between races during Thursday night’s swim meet against Southridge at the Jasper High School Natatorium. With Thornsberry and Mehringer each winning two events, the Wildcats earned a sweep of the Raiders, with the boys prevailing 147-25 and the girls winning 109-60. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Editor

JASPER — If Jasper swimmers were to create a recruiting poster in hopes of luring new people to the sport, it maybe wouldn’t be, um, too magnetic.

It might go something like this: Exhaustion is a guarantee. Going hungry at times — there’s some of that. And just wait for the pressure to get heaped on, because it’s coming.


It ain’t a Four Seasons Resort that the Wildcats are operating when they’re churning out laps at the Jasper High School Natatorium. But when the Wildcats have days like they did Thursday evening, it explains why they do what they do.

Jasper glided to a pair of triumphs over county neighbor Southridge, executing a 147-25 victory in the boys meet and winning 109-60 on the girls side. It was the goal of Jasper coach Jenae Gill to get her swimmers as droopy as possible before the meet, as the Wildcats were in the pool after school at 3:15 for a lil’ 5,000-yard swim. There were footlong subs in between swim sessions, but some Wildcats didn’t even have time to wolf down the full sandwich before the meet launched at 5:30.

Swimming best times wasn’t an expectation under circumstances like Thursday’s. The Cats got a couple anyway. Even after all the mileage of the day, freshman Lindsey Mehringer couldn’t help but go all-out when Southridge’s defending sectional champ, senior Taylor Miles, was swimming in the neighboring lane.

L. Mehringer

“I tend to push myself because I’ve been trying really hard to break a minute in that event, and that’s my goal for sectional,” Mehringer said of her 100 butterfly, which she completed in 1:01.22; she also won the 200 free and contributed on two of Jasper’s three winning relays. “I was out of breath, but it’s all reassuring knowing that I did so well.”

Gill’s mission was to make Mehringer squirm. She read the stress in her freshman swimmer’s body language while the diving competition was being staged prior to the 100 fly race.

When Mehringer emerged from the water, she had a season-best time. She was still heaving for breath into her towel as she went to the side of the pool to chat with Gill and have her coach congratulate her after Mehringer out-touched Miles by 0.23 seconds.

“I’m one of those coaches that likes to put pressure on swimmers in situations like that so I know whether or not I can count on them whenever it comes to those high-pressure meets, especially those freshmen. I was definitely working on Lindsey today before the meet even started about how important it was for her to swim fast in that 100 fly,” Gill said. “But then when I talked to her afterward, I told her, ‘You stepped up, you did exactly what you needed to do,’ and now, she has that confidence going into sectional.”

It was an evening of circular challenges, of sorts, involving the Mehringers. Lindsey battled Miles, the Raiders’ Ball State-bound senior who claimed first in the 100 backstroke by more than four seconds. Meanwhile, Lindsey’s big brother Mitch dueled with a Raider youngster and needed a closing kick to clip sophomore Christian Motteler for first place in the 100 breaststroke.

Both guys wanted a little more: A sapped Mehringer told his coach after the race, “That felt terrible,” though Gill assured him he did precisely what he needed to do in inching past Motteler in the final 25 yards.

“After a 5,000-yard practice that we just did today, that was my second-best time of the season, I think. So to get that after everything we’ve done this week and Christmas break, I’m really proud of it,” Mehringer said.

And in the adjacent lane, some satisfaction, too — combined with the feeling that the result could have been better.

“I know who he is. He’s a sectional champion,” Motteler said of Mehringer, who’s Jasper’s program record-holder in the breaststroke and was also nearly 22 seconds faster than anyone else Thursday in the 200 individual medley. “If you can swim with him, that’s good.”

Motteler also branched out and won the 50 freestyle in 24.56, trimming an entire second from his prior best time — which is saying something, because he considers it “actually one of my better events,” even though he rarely swims it during the high school season.

Jasper’s Matt Head threw his head back in exhaustion after his first-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle during a 147-25 Wildcat win Thursday in Jasper. Head also placed first in the 200 free.

Raider coach Lisa Durcholz is a fan of the other things that are new with her team, too.

Newcomers like freshmen Kera and Molly Jochem are “stepping up and doing their part in relays,” said Durcholz, who was also impressed Thursday by a pair of runner-up swims by Jade Jochem  in the 50 free and 100 backstroke. Progress extends to the little things, like Gage Kunz completing all 18 flip-turns in his 500 free race.

“Those are the things you look for,” Durcholz said.

Also invigorating, Durcholz said, is the presence of Bailey Barrett. She’s the lone diver in the Southridge program, so she was missed early in the season while recovering from an ankle injury sustained in cheerleading. The Raiders are grateful to have her in the first place, as Barrett wasn’t inclined to dive until Durcholz (who returned this season as Raider coach) convinced her otherwise.

“When I took over, kind of talked to her and said well, maybe she’d try it and see how it goes,” Durcholz said of Barrett, now in her second meet back. “Diving is something that either just comes to you naturally or it doesn’t, and she just has it.”

Jasper’s Harry Seng won the guys’ side of the diving competition, as the Wildcats’ top two divers both got the night off. And even though the Wildcats were missing Ben Nolan who was out sick, Nick Pieper and Max Henke filled the vacancy by going 1-and-2 in the butterfly, while Matt Head (100 and 200 free) and Chase Thornsberry (100 backstroke, 500 free) snapped up two victories apiece.

Jasper’s haul of success also included double wins from Emma Hopf in the 50 and 100 free, and Cady Mehringer in the 200 IM and 500 free. And as hard as the Wildcats pushed for a four-hour span Thursday, it could have been worse. Gill guessed her swimmers favored the after-school/pre-meet workout over what would have been the alternative: a 6 a.m. swim and wake-up to single-digit temperatures outside.

“I wanted them to swim tired and I wanted to see how well they could swim when they were tired,” Gill said. “I saw a lot of good swims. For them to go those times is good, because it’s been a crazy week.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.

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