DUNLAP – She wouldn’t say it, or even reference it, but Delaney Wihebrink checked off a bit of redemption Saturday afternoon at the Northern Lakes Conference Girls Swimming Championships.
In winning her first-ever NLC individual event championship, Wihebrink held off Northridge’s Jenna Nethercutt in the finals of the breaststroke to swim a 1:05.53, beating Nethercutt by a little more than a stroke. While it wasn’t on her mind afterwards, it was a part of history in 2018 when Wihebrink couldn’t fend off either Nethercutt or Ridge teammate Haley Dygert in a shocking and disappointing third place. Dygert finished fourth on Saturday.
That changed in her final go-round as a senior, as Wihebrink set a Warsaw record in the prelims, then lowered it Saturday as well as setting a new NLC meet record.
“I knew coming into today that I was first and both Concord and Northridge girls were going to be right on my tail,” said Wihebrink. “That’s all nervewracking. But I had to calm down. I told myself, I am going to win this. This is my race. I had to get down to a 1:05 again, because Northridge and Concord girls could get there.
“I really wasn’t worried about much else with the race other than maybe getting the pool record (1:05.37). I kinda felt like if I could get my name on there with all the fastest Concord swimmers and everyone that swims here would have been cool. But to be able to say I’m a conference champion is good enough for today.”
Wihebrink and Elkhart Memorial’s Rachel Terrell, who was a two-time champion in the backstroke and butterfly, were the only two to break up the parade from team champion Northridge and runner-up Concord.
Northridge won its fifth straight NLC team title, scoring 543 points to Concord’s 496 in a hotly contested meet for both squads. Northridge super sophomore Elsa Fretz began building her push for the IHSAA State Finals with two record-setting swims in the conference tournament. Her 23.17 in the 50 free prelims lowered both the meet and pool marks, and Fretz came back with a 23.18 in the finals to win going away. In the 100 freestyle, Fretz set meet and pool records in the championship at 50.32, a full two seconds ahead of Concord’s Grace Brenneman.
Fretz led off Northridge’s 200 and 400 relay wins, the 200 just missing the meet record at 1:37.33 and the 400 winning comfortably 3:34.27. The Raider medley relay opened the day with a win at 1:49.38 and Ingrid Fretz won the 500 free at 5:13.39. Northridge capped its day with a fine showing in diving from its three freshmen, led by Kaitlin Simons’ championship series of 478.10. Jiselle Miller was second and Evie Long was fourth.
Concord had two early championships from Brenneman in the 200 free at 1:52.58 and Olivia Trout in the individual medley at 2:10.94.
Warsaw, which finished third in the team standings at 306 points, had its medley and 200 free relays both finish third and its 400 free relay take fourth. Highlighting other swims were a 1-2-3 sweep of the butterfly consoles, where Taylor Gunter (1:06.16), Maddie Ray and Gracie Scholl led the field. Gunter also placed eighth in the IM, Gracie Willig had a pair of eighth place swims in the 200 and 500 freestyles, Olivia Herman was fifth in the 50 free and eighth in the 100 free, Wihebrink was fifth in the 100 free, and Macelyn Marcuccilli was eighth in the 50.
Wawasee had just three swimmers active in championship rounds, the top finish coming from Rileigh Atwood in the breaststroke, who took fifth place. Ella Park would finish sixth in the 500 free and seventh in the 200 free. The Warrior 400 free relay would land third, the 200 free relay take fourth and the medley relay place seventh.
Atwood and Lily Tyler would both win consolation heats for the Lady Warriors, Atwood taking the 100 free (58.65) while Tyler won both the IM (2:24.32) and backstroke (1:05.06). The Warriors were fourth with 200 points, followed by Goshen (189), Plymouth (139), Memorial (124) and NorthWood (106).
“Lily’s two times would have placed her in the top eight, and Rileigh is right there as well,” said Wawasee head coach Julie Robinson. “We’ve got some talking points and things to clean up for sectionals, but I liked what I saw today from the girls. In Rileigh’s breaststroke, I saw exactly what we need to fix and we’ll work on that the next three weeks. We should be good to go for sectionals.”
NorthWood had just seven swimmers in action on Saturday, all in consolations, while its relays had the 400 finish best in seventh. The top showing from the Panthers, however, came from divers Laura Schrock and Reagan Koble, who took fifth and eighth, respectively. Schrock scored 364.80 to finish less than a point behind Long and Koble scored 298.55 in her showing.
“Laura is a phenomenal diver, and so is Reagan,” stated NorthWood head coach Sharyl Hawkins of her diving duo. “Laura has nerves of steel. She did so well today and should be OK to compete in the sectional. Our kids, it’s just a matter of hard work and dedication going forward. They will continue to go up, that’s all they have done this season.”