MIDDLEBURY — The closers all made sure the job was done Saturday afternoon at the Northridge Girls Swimming Sectional.
Wawasee sophomore Breanna Robinson made easy work of her two latest sectional titles, winning the 100 and 200 freestyles in convincing fashion while Northridge won just two individual titles but assembled its lineup perfectly to claim a 390.5-368 win over Wawasee for its 11th team title, avenging last year’s loss to Concord that broke an incredible run of team titles.
Robinson’s showdown with Northridge’s Brittney Walters in the 200 never really materialized after the first 50 yards. As the top two time seeds in the state left the rest of the field, Robinson left Walters behind to win at 1:50.76, just a hundredth off the pool record set by Walters at this year’s NLC, with the Ridge senior clocking in at 1:53.40. Walters will still head to state as her time was under the state standard.
“I definitely did not expect to have that kind of lead on Brittney,” stated the sophomore Robinson. “But that didn’t stop me from pushing to the finish.
“I’m not fully tapered yet, and I’m swimming the same times I was at last year, so hopefully I can break those.”
Robinson’s 100 lacked even a little drama as she sped to a 51.25, which was a pool record, and nearly three seconds faster than McKenzie Wright of Concord. Robinson will also anchor the 200 free relay team from Wawasee, which took third overall but were part of a tri fecta of teams along with champion Concord and Northridge to qualify under the state standard. Concord won the relay at a pool-best 1:38.17 with Northridge at 1:38.60 and Wawasee at 1:38.95.
Wawasee’s third championship came from freshman Betsy Rozow, who made her top-seed hold up with a 1:01.48 in the backstroke, holding off a determined effort from Elkhart Central’s Rebecca Hasler in the final 25 yards.
“I was really nervous, but I knew that I could beat her,” Rozow said of the final dash in the backstroke. “I knew (Hasler) had the drive and wanted to beat me. But I had the same drive and wanted to beat her. Just a good feeling.”
Wawasee found out Saturday night the 400 free relay team was picked up as an at-large state qualifier. The team of Robinson, Betsy Rozow, Kayla Hershberger and Kendra Miller swam a 3:39.55, which was runner-up to Northridge’s championship-sealing 3:37.80. The state cut for the 400 was 3:38.41, but Wawasee posted one of the eight-best alternate scores in the state.
In the 50 free, Miller swam a lifetime-best 24.94, which touched the wall third behind Concord’s Wright at 24.88 and Northridge’s Brittani Grove at 24.91.
“We cannot control what everyone else is doing, we can only control what we are doing and we are staying focused on that,” Wawasee head coach Julie Robinson said. “After losing nine seniors last year, I never thought we would be in this spot. I thought would be in a rebuilding year. I am so proud of my kids.”
Concord’s Ashley Schrock had herself quite a day, rolling to titles in the individual medley (2:13.39) and breaststroke (1:07.08) and helped the medley relay team along with the 200 free relay teams from Dunlap claim wins. The medley relay team stormed to a 1:51.93 win to open the day and the 200 was just as electric.
Concord held a 50-point lead on Northridge at 163-113 after Wright’s win in the 50, but a top-heavy start coupled with Northridge backloading its power swimmers late made the difference in the team standings.
“The front half of the meet was really strong for us,” Concord head coach Tom Johnson said. “We sort of ran out of horses after a while. Even in the breaststroke, we win the event but got beat point-wise because both of the other teams had three swimmers.”
Northridge’s only individual title came from Walters in the 500, who whistled to a 5:00.54, actually lapping three finals competitors on her way to the wall uncontested. As teammate Tessa Peter touched the wall second at 5:22.55, which Northridge coach Joe Keller noted was a lifetime-best for Peter, Keller would feel the tide turning.
“Our lineup was set up that way, and we played to our strength,” Keller said of his team’s late push for the title. “The 500 free gave us a big lift. It gave us a different level of energy.
“Our kids don’t like to lose,” continued Keller. “If there is one thing that drove them more than anything else, it was that they didn’t want to see anyone else celebrate in their pool.”
Goshen’s Natalie Evans gave head coach Nate Duell another reason to go crazy on the pool deck after setting a school record in her championship 58.67 dismantling of the butterfly field. Evans was a full three seconds faster than Concord’s Laura Housman.
The diving championship went to NorthWood’s Melissa Berger, who not only won the event in style with a smooth 474.40, but broke the pool and meet record of 446.15 held by Northridge’s Jamie Denlinger, who was watching poolside. Wawasee’s only diver, Tori Sylvester, finished eighth at 316 points.
Once the diving regional at South Bend Riley is settled Tuesday night, where the top four competitors advance to Indianapolis, the IHSAA State Finals will begin Friday night with preliminary rounds in the 11 swim events. The top 16 swimmers will move on to Saturday’s finals, where the younger Robinson hopes to match the feat her older sister, Brittany, did and stand tall as a state champion. Robinson currently sits as the top seed in the 100 and 200 heading into this weekend.