News From Terre Haute, Indiana

High School

February 22, 2014

Wilhelm's school-record freestyle victory leads South to second at swim sectional

AVON — Asked late Saturday afternoon about the Avon Sectional for boys high school swimming that had just ended, Jeff Thompson replied, “Well, it was fast.”

Understatement doesn’t always seem to be the Terre Haute South coach’s calling card, but that comment would qualify. Like the high tide that lifts all boats, the home team — ranked third in the state — had a fantastic meet, and pulled the rest of the field, particularly the three Vigo County teams, along with it.

Even though the host Orioles were expected to win Saturday’s meet, their performance — judging by reaction of fans and the athletes themselves — was apparently even more than they had hoped for.

On several occasions, the Orioles took the top three places in an event with each swimmer bettering the state cutoff time. Sectional records fell in almost every event, usually more than once. The sectional breaststroke record formerly held by South’s Addison Bray was broken by his younger brother Chandler, but Chandler was second in the event to Avon teammate Christian Lorenz.

But Thompson’s Braves were a strong second in the team standings, winning the only swimming event that Avon didn’t and qualifying several athletes for next week’s state finals, while Terre Haute North slipped past a top-40 Greencastle team to finish fourth and West Vigo had one of its best performances in recent years to place ninth.

“[The Orioles] being as good as they are makes us better,” Thompson said after the meet. “Competition can be your biggest advocate in helping you reach your goals, or you can look at it as an adversary, and that’s no good.”

South’s Christian Wilhelm won the 100-yard freestyle in school record time and the Braves nearly had the meet’s other non-Avon winner as well; Nick Lee finished 0.45 of a point behind Plainfield’s Aaron Lux in diving.

Wilhelm will also be going to the state in the 200 freestyle by achieving a state cutoff time as the second-place finisher, and Dalton Mitchell qualified for the state in the 100 as the third-place finisher behind Wilhelm and Avon’s Greg Sprout.

South’s 400 freestyle relay team also beat the cutoff time, so Mitchell, Collin Dowell, Wilhelm and WIll Cammack will be going on in that event, and Thompson has hopes that South’s 200 medley relay (Nolan Hillard, Lucas Sturgess, Josh Ford and Dowell) as well as Jacob Riley in the 50 and Mitchell in the 200 will also have times good enough to qualify.

Vigo County divers had their best performance in awhile too. Lee will be joined by North’s Garrett Humphrey (third) and by West Vigo twins Bailey (fifth) and Brandon Sherrill (sixth) at Tuesday’s diving regional.

Wilhelm also set school records in his two individual events, as well as helping the 400 free relay team — which cut nearly 11 seconds off its Thursday qualifying time, only to finish behind an Avon team with a 16-second improvement — set another record.

“I’m still trying to take it all in,” Wilhelm said after the meet. “A lot of guys stepped up and got the job done.”

“It was a really good day,” MItchell agreed. Mitchell started naming off the Braves who had done well — Riley, Jonathon Wilson, Ildanne Dalina, Wilhelm “obviously” — only to give up and summarize, “overall, everyone did really great.”

“This was probably, hands down, the fastest boys sectional we’ve ever been a part of,” Thompson said. “I’m proud of the boys. They stood up [to Avon’s competition].”

Humphrey may be North’s only chance for a state-finals appearance, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad day for the Patriots either.

“They were awesome. I’m so proud of them,” coach Mike Williams said of his swimmers and divers. “We had a great night [of qualifications] with 23 liftime bests on Thursday. It takes a lot of grit to come back on Saturday and swim faster, and we did.”

Fastest of the Patriots was senior Courtland Jones, who had individual finishes of fourth in the 500 and fifth in the 200, then set a school 50-yard record on his leadoff leg on a fourth-place Patriot team in the 200 freestyle relay.

“Courtland Jones set a school record, on 400 freestyle relay team dropped about six seconds … it was a great way to end a special season,” Williams added.

Asked about North’s team finish, the coach said, “This is a very, very competitive meet. If you swim up, and your divers do well, you’ll be all right, and that’s what we did.”

West Vigo got an eighth-place finish from Jacob Weir in breaststroke and had relay teams finish sixth and seventh in addition to its diving performance.

“There were a lot of good swims,” Thompson said. “Greencastle swam well, it was fun seeing Courtland Jones set a school record, South Putnam had some kids … a lot of people brought a lot of really good swimmers.

“This was a great meet for us,” the South coach concluded. “We’ll try to ride this momentum and see how fast we can go [at the state finals].”

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