By Josh Sigler
A season ago, Northwestern’s girls swimming and diving team came from behind in the final two events to nip Western for its first Mid-Indiana Conference title since 1988.
This time around, there would be no such suspense.
The Purple Tigers passed Maconaquah for the lead with four events to go, and buoyed by an incredible display of depth, topped the field going away Saturday at Lewis Cass High School for a repeat MIC championship.
“It’s just awesome – awesome,” Northwestern coach Cindy Britten said, still shivering from a celebratory dunk in the Cass pool. “Our program has really kicked it into gear, and I credit that to our assistant coaches Roger Sprouse and Wade Roberts. They do a tremendous job with the girls, getting them ready and getting them fired up. … It was just a total team effort. It means the world to all of us.”
Northwestern took top honors in five events, but won the meet with depth, placing two or more in the top eight of seven separate events, including three in the top eight of four events.
“Our girls really stepped up,” Sprouse said. “From Day 1, this was their mission. Every girl in every lane stepped up and swam their hardest. That proved [critical Saturday].”
The Purple Tigers took top honors with 311 points, ahead of runner-up Maconaquah, who finished with 274.5 points. Hamilton Heights took third with 188, followed by Western (180), Cass (162.5) and Eastern (147).
Charlotte Ahls was a triple winner for Northwestern. She topped the field in the 200-yard individual medley (2:20.85) and 100 butterfly (1:02.90), then teamed with Savannah Gamester, Karla Martinson and Ashton Martin to win the 200 freestyle relay (1:48.34).
“I know our coaches were expecting us to win, so the pressure was on,” Ahls said. “I was really pumped going into the meet, and we did well, so I was pretty happy with how it went. My strategy was to go out there and take my races early. I feel like I did that.
“We just try to go into every practice with a positive attitude and try to work hard. That’s where you win races – in practice.”
Gamester took the top spot on the podium in the 100 backstroke in 1:07.03, topping teammate Kindra Gingerich by over a second.
Addie Roth rounded out Northwestern’s winners in the 100 breast stroke (1:16.26).
Maconaquah won four events, taking two of the three relay races.
Gabby Ladd edged Eastern’s Audra Isaac by .19 seconds to win the 50 freestyle in :26.24, while Kayleigh Grey bested Northwestern’s Rachel Johns to win the one-meter diving portion of the meet.
Ladd, Lauren Ravesloot, Kaitlin Rowlette and Kasey Daniels teamed to win the opening event of the meet, the 200 medley relay, in 1:59.06. The foursome also combined to win the final event of the day, the 400 freestyle relay, in 3:57.73.
“My girls swam with amazing heart,” Maconaquah coach Janet McManus said. “They wanted this so bad. They swam really great. We had a ton of great times. I can’t believe some of the times that we came out of here with. They’ve really worked hard. They’ve been looking forward to this meet for a long time. This group of girls is an amazing group that you don’t get very often.”
Summer Brown put together a performance to remember for Western, setting new conference records in winning the 200 freestyle (1:53.02) and 500 freestyle (5:10.84). She won the 200 free by a 16.5-second margin, before taking the 500 free by a staggering 40 seconds.
“This is one of the first meets where she really has to swim hard, in a competition like this, so it was nice to see where she was,” Western coach Brad Bennett said of Brown. “[As a team], I’m a little disappointed in our intensity level [Saturday]. We had some decent seeds coming in, and I knew it was going to be tough with Maconaquah, who got us in a dual meet this season, and Hamilton Heights, who was close with us in another dual meet. That’s my biggest disappointment, to have Heights pass us in this meet.”
Cass’ Clair Crum rounded out the day’s winners, taking a blue ribbon in the 100 freestyle in :58.48.
Isaac had an additional second-place showing for Eastern, teaming with Maddie Vint, Katie Swartzendruber and Avery Ewing to finish the 200 freestyle relay in 1:50.59.
“We swam phenomenal,” Eastern coach Dana Culp said. “We had 14 best times [Saturday]. We were really on top of our game. We’re a small group this year, so as far as competing with numbers, we don’t have them, but I was so proud of the girls. We had some great swims, so as far as gauging the girls’ progress, they were outstanding.”