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Junior swimmer part of Bull Frogs’ 3 relay teams

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KAREN Wildemann won’t be swimming any individual events at this weekend’s Girls Swimming State Finals.

However, the Columbus North junior could play perhaps the biggest role in determining how the Bull Frogs fare as a team. That’s because she’s a member of all three North relay teams, and in swimming, relays count twice as many points as individual events.

“I like relays a lot better than individual events because you have the entire team backing you up,” Wildemann said. “There is a lot of pressure, but with every single event there’s a lot of pressure on you because every point matters in swimming.”

In Saturday’s North Sectional, Wildemann had a chance to swim all three relays for the first time. She had spent most of her career swimming in two individual events — usually the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events — and two relays.

But with North coach Jim Sheridan trying to get as many swimmers as possible to the state meet, he loaded up his relay teams. The move paid off, with all three winning their races to earn spots in the state meet.

“It was a lot of fun because every relay, you have three other girls to support you,” Wildemann said. “You guys are cheering each other on, and you’re right there as a team.”

“She brings so much energy and so much excitement to every race,” said junior Marah Bieger, who joins Wildemann on the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams. “It’s so much fun having her on all three relays because she contributes a lot to them.”

North will take the state’s 11th-fastest time into Friday’s state preliminaries at the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI.

On Saturday, the Bull Frogs began the meet by swimming 1 minute, 47.20 seconds in the 200 medley relay. Wildemann anchored with a 24.60 freestyle split. The school record is 1:45.04.

“She’s fully capable of going in the 23s on the end of that relay,” North coach Jim Sheridan said. “Those girls can give that record a run. That (record-setting team) was a top-three relay in the state, and they can definitely make a run at it to break that record.”

Wildemann swam a 25.06 third leg in 200 free relay for the Bull Frogs, who won in 1:39.17. They’re seeded 16th at state and are chasing the school record of 1:36.79.

In the closing 400 freestyle relay, Wildemann led off with a 55.7 split to spark North to a win in 3:39.90, which earned them the No. 23 seed. The school record is 3:30.99.

“She led off that 400 free relay and did a tremendous job,” Sheridan said. “She’s right at her best times. I think when she shaves down, she’ll lead us off again, and I think she’ll go 53.”

“We all went out as hard as we could on our races, and we finished as we wanted to,” Wildemann said. “For definitely the medley relay and the 200 free relay, we want to get the Columbus North record, and we want to make it back in the top eight in all three.”

The only downside to Wildemann’s sectional day Saturday was her fourth-place finish in the 50 freestyle in 25.28.

“I was a little disappointed, but I know what to work on for next year — my start and getting that quicker,” Wildemann said.

Wildemann realizes she’s in much better condition this year than she was last season. She missed the beginning of her sophomore year when she thought she wanted to focus on volleyball, but she ended up back in the pool.

“Last year, I missed six weeks of practice, and this year, I got into practice the first week, and I feel a lot better and a lot stronger this year,” Wildemann said.

“Last year, she said ‘I’m going to stick with volleyball and not swim, and halfway through the year, she came back and said ‘Coach, my bad. I want to swim. Can I still swim?’ and I said ‘Absolutely,’” Sheridan said.

The starting setter on the volleyball team in the fall, Wildemann is looking to play that sport in college.

“I’m just trying to email coaches and get my name out there.”

So far, she has heard back from Washington University in St. Louis, a school with a strong academic reputation. Wildemann ranks No. 1 in her class with a 4.31 GPA.

“It’s a hard balance, but after three years of doing it, I’m pretty good at it,” Wildemann said.

“She has a great work ethic,” Sheridan said. “She’s a tremendous young lady and a tremendous athlete. She’s a good volleyball player, and I think she’s a great swimmer. She brings about a definite leadership capability on the deck of the pool.”

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