COLUMBUS North swimming coach Jim Sheridan was talking about two of his favorite swimmers when he jumped out of his chair and did a little impression of Maddie Wyke on the blocks.
Sheridan spun his arms like windmills and did a little shake. It was kind of the standard pre-race, psych-up routine that swimmers do.
Then he did his best Marah Bieger. Sheridan put on his best stone face, his body silent, kind of a pre-race coma.
“She has a fire that burns inside,” Sheridan said of Bieger. “You never will see it on the outside.”
Indeed, the two juniors are different in many ways. They talk about wanting to go their own ways outside of swimming
because they spend so much time in the
pool together. Wyke is a butterfly specialist, while Bieger has mastered the IM and breaststroke.
But when all the churning water evaporates, one thing is clear. They are both driven to succeed.
If you go
WHAT: Conference Indiana Girls Swim Meet
WHEN: Diving, 9 a.m., Saturday; swimming, 1 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Columbus North High School
SWIM STARS: Columbus North swimmers Maddie Wyke (seventh, 100 butterfly) and Marah Bieger (10th, 200 IM) both had top 10 finishes in the state meet last year.
“High energy, high ideals, high goals,” Sheridan said about Wyke and Bieger. “That’s an anomaly in this society. They don’t want something for nothing. They put out the effort and they want to go to a high Division I program. By working hard they have put themselves in position to do so.”
Both are ranked in the top 100 nationally in their best events. Wyke was seventh in the 100 fly at last year’s state meet with a 56.57. She set a school record in the preliminaries with a 56.23.
Bieger was 10th in the 200 IM in 2:06.34.
They had a chance to stand on the podium that features the state’s best swimmers in each event. They also paired with last year’s seniors Rachael Sollman and Emma Wyke (Maddie Wyke’s sister) to place seventh in the 200 medley relay.
“Being on the podium is something you don’t forget,” Maddie Wyke said.
They don’t just want to return to the podium. They want to be standing in a better place.
The two watched North junior Cody Taylor win a state championship in the 100 breaststroke last season. They practice alongside Taylor daily.
If a state title seemed out of sight, Taylor brought it into focus.
“I think it puts it into realistic terms,” Bieger said. “It was someone we knew. You think, ‘Maybe I could do that.’”
Sheridan said Taylor’s state title has had a positive effect on all his swimmers.
“They know it can happen in tiny Columbus, Indiana,” he said.
But no one jumps into the pool at Columbus North without understanding Sheridan’s expectations of hard work and dedication.
Thinking about a state championship is one thing, making it a reality is another.
Sheridan said Wyke and Bieger have the talent and work ethic to make their dreams a reality.
“They are ahead of where they were a year ago,” he said. “If all things remain equal, they will move up the ranks. And they don’t fear anyone.”
Wyke began her swimming career at age 4 by going to Donner Park. She has done the grueling workouts day after day ever since and hasn’t burned out on the workload.
“There’s no better feeling than when I get out of practice and I have done everything I could,” she said. “Some days I can feel so tired, but I want to push. You know that your training is what is going to push you ahead.”
She said that a big part of the battle is going into workouts with a positive attitude.
“If you are focusing on how hard it will be, you probably will have a hard practice. You will hate it. I put on a smile before every practice. It makes me go so much faster.”
Bieger began swimming in South Bend at age 8 before her family moved to Columbus the next year. She joined the Donner Swim Club.
“When you know you love it, it is easier to sacrifice,” Bieger said. “I think, ‘I need to be here because I want this.’”
They both built themselves into elite high school swimmers.
Sheridan said Wyke is a great butterfly swimmer.
“In the butterfly, you have to work through the pain,” he said. “It’s the one stroke where every part of your body moves. A lot of kids don’t like to swim the butterfly.”
He said Bieger has mastered all the strokes, but it is her competitive desire that sets her apart. “Her personality is tenacious,” he said. “She doesn’t want to lose.”
They have done so well that now they have to accept their roles as team leaders.
“It’s been a big change,” Wyke said. “We have to be the ones to push the team. Swimming changes the way you look at things. It has made me so much more mature.”
Bieger knows she has more responsibility but it is just an extension of the things that she has learned from the sport.
“This influences almost everything you do,” she said. “It influences your choices of what to do, or not to do.”
And while they might be different in a lot of ways, they will chase high individual and team finishes together.
“Maddie is determined,” Bieger said. “But she likes to have fun.”
Bieger helps with the fun part.
“She always is cracking jokes,” Wyke said of Bieger. “You need a little giggle now and then.”