MIDDLEBURY — What on paper looked like it would be a fight to the finish was just another set of huge Northridge wins.
The Raider boys continued its unbelievable run in the Northern Lakes Conference with an overwhelming 136-47 win over Wawasee while the Lady Raiders made it look easy in a 107-76 win over the Lady Warriors.
Northridge’s boys, which are ranked No. 3 in the state, showed the lofty state appreciation isn’t just on name and state swim status from a year ago. The 2012 backstroke state champion, Austin Flager, showed he is pretty strong elsewhere, with monster wins in the 50 (21.74) and 100 (47.49) as Northridge swept all 12 events. AJ Bernth won the backstroke at 56.80 and also won the individual medley at 2:01.39.
The Raiders, which haven’t lost an NLC meet in 15 years, looked very strong in the 200 free as their four swimmers claimed the top four spots, led by Seth Cripe’s 1:49.53. Cripe also won the 500 (4:57.51) and Jon Stoller added to the double vision with wins in the butterfly (54.20) and breaststroke (1:01.30). The Raiders grabbed the 200 free relay at 1:33.76, the 400 free relay at 3:25.71 and actually had their ‘A’ and ‘B’ relay teams tie for honors in the medley relay, with both teams completing 1:44.14 romps.
Taylor Berkey opened the night with a 195.20 six-pack in diving.
“If we want to have a successful dual meet team, we have to make sure the slowest time is getting better, whatever event it is,” said Northridge head coach Joe Keller in reference to his team’s impressive depth. “As they get better, it raises the level of everybody. The critical part is the training is getting better. Some of the top kids in the program then know that they have to work hard, too, because somebody is right on their heels.
“I’m really impressed with the progress of our girls, our new athletes and our freshmen. They are all making some really great progress.”
While Northridge were busy lighting up the scoreboard, Warriors Logan Brugh, Mason Germonprez and Seth Shoemaker turned in lifetime bests. Brugh stayed with Cripe in the 500, and while settling for third behind Tyler Matthews, still posted a 5:03.30. Germonprez swam a 1:09.05 in the breaststroke and Shoemaker a 2:08.85 in the 200 free.
“I’m honestly thrilled with the kids, scores aside,” said Wawasee head coach Julie Robinson. “We had so many personal bests and better from the kids. “For as many meets as we have had in the past few weeks, I was really, really proud of the kids. They did a great job.”
The girls dual had the potential to shake up the NLC race, with Northridge entering the night 5-0 and Wawasee 4-1. Northridge, which went 11 years without an NLC loss until Concord clipped them in 2012, sent the message early it was ready to defend its pool in relying on its senior core.
Ashley Owens and Brittani Grove each posted a pair of wins and were in on the medley relay win. Owens commanded the IM (2:19.34) and fly (1:04.71) while Grove was tops in the 50 (25.44) and backstroke (1:04.13). The ‘Ridge medley posted a 1:58.69 win and closed with a 3:45.78 win in the 400 relay to seal the deal. Classmate Brittany Walters had no problems in the 500 (5:16.80) and renewed a mini rivalry with Wawasee’s Bre Robinson.
The two, whose showdown in the 200 free at the NLC, sectional and state levels were quite memorable last winter, faced off again Thursday night. Robinson would have the upper hand this time around, beating Walters by a second at 1:55.40. Robinson would also win the 100 at 53.53 before catching Walters on the final leg of the 200 free relay.
After Rachel Rozow swam a 27.10 split on the third leg to make up about six lengths, Robinson took off and caught Walters at the turn and swam a 24.10 50-yards to give Wawasee 1:45.37 win.
“Rachel got her times down and had a great leg in the 200 relay that put Breanna in striking distance where they could come back and win that relay,” Robinson said.
Northridge’s Brooke Gardner won the breaststroke at 1:13.55 and Tori Sylvester continued to stack wins for Wawasee in diving, going 178.55 against Northridge’s pair of competitors.
Credited with lifetime bests for Wawasee were Rachel Rozow in the fly (1:07.01) and breaststroke (1:14.19); Betsy Rozow in the backstroke (1:04.85); and Mikala Mawhorter in the fly (1:09.07) and 50 (27.97).
With the completion of the evening comes the end of a brutal stretch for both clubs. Northridge swam six NLC duals in the 20 days while Wawasee swam five of its NLC contests in the month of December. Northridge will face Elkhart Central and Plymouth after the holidays ahead of the girls NLC tournament on Jan. 10 and 12, to be held at Northridge. Wawasee has a lone NLC tilt with Goshen on Jan. 5 before heading into the tournament season. The boys NLC tournament is scheduled for Jan. 24 and 26 at Concord.
“Our kids were swimming very tired today,” Keller said. “I told them at the beginning of the season to prepare for this. We aren’t going to change our training schedule. I was really pleased with what I saw tonight. The kids were really tired, but showed some toughness. The effort was there.”
Robinson stated, “Goshen is a very tough team and my kids are really going to have to put together a great meet if we want to beat them. We are going to have to clean some stuff up technique-wise. Goshen is just not going to lay down, it is going to take everything we have and post our best times if we want to beat them.”