State Bound: North swimmers look to go faster at state meet

Kaitlyn Niebrugge thought her swimming career was over.

The Columbus North senior was doing laundry late Sunday morning when she received a text from coach Logan Schaefer. He informed Niebrugge that the Bull Frogs 400-yard freestyle relay team, of which she is a member, received a call back for the state meet.

“I did a little screaming-fest, and my mom ran and goes, ‘So are you dying?'” Niebrugge said. “I was like, ‘No, I just made it to state.'”

Niebrugge, who will compete at state for the first time, will be one of five North swimmers in four events to in this weekend’s Girls Swimming State Finals. Prelims are at 6 p.m. Friday, and the consolations and finals start at 1 p.m. Saturday at IUPUI’s Indiana University Natatorium.

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The Bull Frogs had finished second in the 400 freestyle relay in the North Sectional. Only event winners and those meeting the state cut are guaranteed state spots.

“It’s bittersweet,” Niebrugge said. “I spent a lot of Saturday just thinking about how I thought that was it. I was thinking about how everything was going to change and realizing that was an end of a decade (of swimming). So I’m really excited to be able to swim another week and have one more competition under my belt.”

Niebrugge is the lone senior among the Bull Frogs who will be swimming at state. Three of the others are sophomores, and one is a freshman.

The freshman, Riddhi Garg, is on the 200 freestyle relay team.

“I didn’t expect to make state freshman year, so I’m really happy,” Garg said. “I think that being able to go now will give us more experience, and over the years, we’ll build off that and just get better.”

Sophomore Erica Samuel is a member of both relay teams. Like Niebrugge and Garg, she will make her first state meet appearance.

“I just hope we are able to make the finals,” Samuel said. “I’m kind of nervous, but I just hope we are able to do well and build off of that going into the upcoming years.”

Sophomores Olivia Morlok and Betsy King are the long swimmers in the quintet with state meet experience. Both swam on the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay teams that made it last season.

Morlok also has been part of state-qualifying North cross-country teams the past two years and qualified for state in the 3,200 meters in track last spring. She will swim the 500 freestyle, along with the two relays, this weekend.

“This team is really young, so it’s good to get lots of girls going and excited to want make state cuts so that our team has a lot of experience on the state level,” Morlok said.

King also is on both relays. She received a call back in the 100 freestyle after finishing second in that event in the sectional.

“Definitely going three-hundreths of a second away from the state cut is very aggravating, but I was in great hopes of getting pulled in,” King said.

Morlok is seeded 10th in the 500 freestyle, while King is 20th in the 100 freestyle. The Bull Frogs are 22nd in the 200 freestyle relay and 23rd in the 400 freestyle relay.

North coach Logan Schaefer said anything can happen at the state meet, and the girls are going in with the mindset that it’s a new meet and a new opportunity.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re seeded, if you go in and try to perform at your best and even better than what you did the week before, you’re going to be in a really good spot,” Schaefer said. “These girls have had their eye on this meet since the first day of the season, so they’re hungry to get there and perform even better. It’s a strong group of girls and a confident group of ladies ready to swim even faster this weekend.”

At a glance

Girls Swimming State Finals

When: 6 p.m. Friday (swimming prelims); 9 a.m. Saturday (diving prelims and semifinals); 1 p.m. Saturday (swimming and diving finals

Where: IUPUI’s Indiana University Natatorium, 901 W. New York St., Indianapolis

Admission: $8 per session or $15 for both days

Area competitors

200 freestyle: Rachel Sabotin (Trinity Lutheran)

Diving: Hailey Brown (Jennings County), Maggie Gregory (Columbus East)

100 freestyle: Betsy King (Columbus North)

500 freestyle: Sabotin (Trinity Lutheran), Olivia Morlok (Columbus North)

200 freestyle relay: Columbus North (King, Erica Samuel, Riddhi Garg, Morlok)

400 freestyle relay: Columbus North (King, Samuel, Kaitlyn Niebrugge, Morlok)

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.