‘A great improvement’

INDIANAPOLIS — The Columbus North girls swimmers went into this weekend’s state finals with a goal of finishing in the top four and earning a spot on the school’s Wall of Fame.

Although they fell just short of that goal, the Bull Frogs certainly didn’t come away disappointed. With a sixth-place finish, they notched their first top-10 effort since 2012 and their best finish since taking fifth in 2011.

“We did a lot better than last year,” said sophomore Grace Haskett, who finished third in the 100 backstroke and fifth in the 50 freestyle. “It may not be what most of us wanted, but it’s a great improvement.”

Carmel won nine of the 11 swimming events — setting state records in all nine either in Friday’s preliminaries or Saturday’s finals — to win its 29th consecutive state title, tying a national record for all sports.

The Greyhounds’ 445 points and their 266-point margin over runner-up Fishers were state records.

North, which scored 114 points, was in 10th place with three events remaining. But Haskett took third in the 100 backstroke, senior Marah Bieger was seventh in the 100 butterfly and those two teamed with junior Mackenzie Fry and sophomore Darby Coles to finish sixth in the 400 freestyle relay, allowing the Bull Frogs to move up.

“We knew we had eight events coming in that could score in the top 16, and they all did,” North coach Jim Sheridan said. “We fought back, and we moved into the top six in the last race, so that was pretty cool.”

The Bull Frogs began the day with a third-place finish in the 200 medley relay. Haskett, Bieger and seniors Maddie Wyke and Karen Wildemann swam 1 minute, 43.20 seconds.

“That was so exciting,” Wildemann said. “I am so proud of how we did today. I still can’t wrap my mind around being third in the state. That’s insane, it was so much fun.”

The 200 medley relay team had set a school record a week earlier.

“That was awesome,” Bieger said. “We put in a lot of hard work, and that’s been one of our goals since our freshman year, so that was great to finally achieve that.”

“We’ve been trying to get that school record down for a few years, and seeing in pay off finally and being able to get up on that podium, especially third in a meet that’s this fast, is amazing,” Wyke said.

Haskett finished fifth in the 50 freestyle (23.48) to go along with her third in the 100 backstroke (55.29).

“It’s not all that I wanted, but it’s an improvement,” Haskett said. “There are more years to come. Like my coach said, ‘This isn’t the end. You still have more to improve,’ and that’s great to think about.”

Bieger took 12th in the 200 individual medley (2:04.47) to go along with her seventh in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.99).

“My times weren’t the best, but I felt like I came out here and I raced, which is something I usually struggle to do,” Bieger said. “Sometimes, I’m not really focused on myself and focused in on others. But I felt like I did a good job of racing, even though I didn’t have my best times.”

“Coming in, they all had a chance to earn some medals, and they did,” Sheridan said. “Being able to take the medals home with them is something they’ll remember.”

Wyke also finished 14th in the 100 butterfly (56.66). Wildemann, Coles, Fry and Wyke were 14th in the 200 freestyle relay (1:38.88).

“I think we’re proud of where we finished,” Wyke said. “It’s a tough meet to swim. There’s a lot of emotion here. My time (in the 100 butterfly) wasn’t as fast as I wanted to go, but I’m by no means disappointed in myself in this season”

North swam 3:30.60 in the 400 freestyle relay.

“Last year and the year before, we kind of were struggling coming into the state meet, and I think this year, we did a great job at sectional, so we set ourselves up for that sixth-place finish with our swims at sectional,” Bieger said.

As fast as the Bull Frogs swam in last week’s sectional, going even faster this weekend would have been a monumental task. Although they didn’t improve on any of the five school records they set in the sectional, North still medaled with top-eight finishes in five events.

“We just told some of these girls, it takes so much to get through your sectional, and it’s a much different meet when you come here,” Sheridan said. “But (in Friday’s prelims), we maintained, and we did fall off some today. But the girls came to race, and they kept racing all day long. We kept our positions, and we improved our spots tremendously over a year ago.”

Jennings County senior Chessler Biggs did not make the finals of the diving competition, finishing 24th with 153.5 points for five dives

In Friday’s preliminaries, Columbus East’s Cortney VanLiew finished 20th in the 50 freestyle. North sophomore Alex Nusawardhana took 21st in the 100 backstroke, Wildemann was 25th in the 50 freestyle, Coles finished 25th in the 100 freestyle and Fry and Wyke were 25th and 31st, respectively, in the 200 freestyle.

“The experience the ones coming back gained will help stand them against what they need to do next year to come back and keep improving,” Sheridan said.

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“That was so exciting. I am so proud of how we did today. I still can’t wrap my mind around being third in the state. That’s insane, it was so much fun.”

Columbus North swimmer Karen Wildemann

On the team’s 3rd-place finish in the 200 medley relay