By Josh Sigler
Northwestern’s boys swimming and diving team entered Saturday seeking its fourth straight Mid-Indiana Conference title. The Purple Tigers knew the chips were stacked against them.
Having lost to conference foes Western and Hamilton Heights in dual meets earlier in the season, Northwestern had to find a way to win the rematches with league bragging rights on the line.
The Tigers found a way, and did so in improbable fashion, claiming their fourth straight MIC championship without winning a single event Saturday, a testament to the team’s depth.
“This is very special. All of them are special but this one is just a tremendous feat for our seniors,” Northwestern coach Cindy Britten said. “I’m so happy for them to win their fourth straight MIC. That is a huge, huge achievement. We have a great group of seniors, and the coaching staff and I are really happy for them. It was definitely not easy. We knew it would be nip and tuck and that was exactly how it was.”
Although it didn’t win any events, Northwestern finished no worse than fourth in 11 of the 12 events. The Tigers placed three in the top 10 of six events, and had at least two in the top 11 of nine events in winning the meet with 280 points.
Western finished a close second with 277 points and held the lead heading into the 11th of 12 events, the 100-yard backstroke.
Hamilton Heights (237), Maconaquah (194), Eastern (153) and Cass (119) rounded out the field.
The Panthers needed to win the final event of the afternoon, the 400 freestyle relay, and have Northwestern finish no better than fourth to dethrone the Tigers. Western did its part as Asa Sheffer, Jacob Bradshaw, Glen Brown and Connor Hill teamed to take top honors in 3:28.28, but Northwestern rallied to finish second as the foursome of Gray Longshore, Drew Harris, Tony Janes and Griffin Longshore touched the wall in 3:30.56 to seal the 4-peat for the Tigers.
Western’s 400 free relay team, which features no seniors, stands .09 seconds away from the school record, which was set in 1992.
Western boasted four other wins on the day. Brown, a freshman, took top honors in the 100 butterfly in :54.96 and the 200 IM in 2:03.50. Sheffer was also a triple winner, besting the field in the 200 freestyle in 1:57.49 and the 500 freestyle in 5:13.81, winning that event by more than 13 seconds.
“I’m happy with the guys,” Western coach Brad Bennett said. “We swam better than we were supposed to on paper. Our guys really swam up and rose to the challenge [Saturday]. Every guy that swam was eager to do their part to make this happen because they knew with the way we swam Tuesday [in a dual meet with Northwestern] that we had a chance to break their streak.”
Western defeated Northwestern 95-91 in Tuesday’s dual meet. Heights had upended the Tigers 93-90 in a meet a few weeks back.
The Longshore brothers boosted Northwestern’s championship bid with a pair of second-place finishes apiece.
Gray, a freshman, finished second in to Sheffer in both the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. Griffin, a junior, took red ribbons in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly. He swam a :50.82 anchor leg in the 400 free relay to help Northwestern move up from fourth and finish second to seal the title.
“Griffin had four outstanding swims.” Britten said. “He was in the zone.”
Janes added a third-place showing in the 50 free for the Tigers, while Austin Roberts finished third in the 100 backstroke.
“The depth was a key, and that’s a tribute to the boys and how hard they’ve been working,” Britten said. “It’s just outstanding for them because some of the kids [that placed] weren’t even seeded. We told them it would come down to not necessarily the first places, but the seconds and the thirds, and that’s basically what it was. The coaching staff couldn’t be more proud of the boys. To reach this major accomplishment, winning the MIC four years in a row, was just outstanding for them. Brad has some awesome kids, and we knew they were going to give us a run for our money and make it a meet.”
Maconaquah racked up five victories, led by quadruple winner Austin Green.
Austin Green teamed with Matt Jelenek, Silas Green and Conner Uhrin to win the 200 medley relay in 1:45.87.
Austin Green, Silas Green, Uhrin and Isaac Geringer edged Heights to win the 200 freestyle relay in 1:33.07.
Austin Green rounded out the day with victories in the sprints, winning the 50 freestyle in :22.15 and the 100 freestyle in :50.17.
Gabel Riley rounded out the Braves’ winners, taking the top step of the podium in the one-meter diving event with 299.40, ahead of Western’s Cody Cox by .25 points.
Eastern posted a pair of third-place finishes. The team of Sam Rocchio, Derek Conwell, Joel Mohring and Shawn Takarcik finished third in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:36.47.
Conwell added a third-place showing in the 100 backstroke in 1:02.84.