GOSHEN — Katie Hughes, a slightly built freshman, had the weight of the entire Northridge High School girls swimming program on her shoulders as she stepped up on the blocks to anchor the 400-yard freestyle relay Tuesday night.
At stake was the outcome of an NLC meet with the Goshen Redskins. Goshen was clinging to a two-point lead entering the 400 free relay and the Raiders wanted to win both the event and the meet.
Hughes came through like a veteran bringing her team home in a time of 3:33.60 just ahead of Goshen’s relay that finished in 3:33.99.
The end result was a 95-91 Northridge victory.
“The coaches told us before the relay that if we won and let Goshen get second and third the meet would end in a tie,” Hughes said. “We had a decision to make in our heads as to how we wanted the meet to come out. It was really exciting and I kept thinking during the race that I didn’t want to let my team down. I like having the pressure on me. It brings out what is in my heart.”
Veteran Northridge coach Joe Keller had a plan.
“On the way over we told the girls the meet could come down to the 400 relay,” he said. “We also knew Goshen had to be licking their chops thinking this was an opportunity to beat us. Because of that I kept all my horses in the stable for the 400 relay. I told the girls on the relay that they were not alone on the blocks, but they had every other girl that has swam at Northridge up there with them.”
The Redskins took a two-point lead after the 100 butterfly based a win by Natalie Evans (1:02.34), a third from Jenea Born (1:05.89) and a fourth from Frankie Lietzan (1:10.34). Goshen held on to that lead, which got as high a four points, down to the wire.
“It was almost as close as it can get,” Goshen coach Steve Guipe said. “We have a pretty strong lineup and our plan was to swim the best lineup we could and see which team could come out on top.”
The Goshen pool is being replaced and this could be the last time the Redskins face Northridge in the old setting.
“This is one to remember,” Guipe said. “The nice thing about this pool is it’s so confined it’s easy to bring the excitement level up.”
Keller agreed saying, “This was a great meet. When we used to come over here for the relays this was one of my favorite places.”
The boys meet didn’t have any of the dramatics the girls did as Northridge won 128-57.
“We told the guys that tonight was about the girls,” Keller said. “So we had fun with our lineup and got to swim a lot of guys in events they normally don’t swim. They guys did a lot of great things in different races for them while still supporting the girls.”
Keller pointed out an example of how the guys competed.
“Bryce Brouillette swam the 500 free for the first time ever. He was hoping to break 7:00 instead he broke 6:00 (5:59.84),” the coach said.
The Goshen coach knew the boys meet would not be a close as the girls.
“We don’t matchup well with Northridge,” Guipe said. “I was proud of the guys because they didn’t let that stop them from swimming personal bests. We had a lot of those tonight. I think the second half of the season will be kinder to our boys.”
Hughes had a busy night as she picked up wins in the 200 free (1:57.31) and 500 free (5:11.98).
“This was an awesome meet. I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” Hughes said. “I swam in middle school, but it was not like this.”
Keller wasn’t worried when the meet came down to the youthful anchor.
“I have complete confidence in Katie,” the coach said. “She is an experienced swimmer.
“There is no doubt we have a lot of youth on this team. The learning curve is bigger than any year I can remember.”
The girls meet even included a tie as Olivia Wenger of Goshen and Sydney Boyer of Northridge both finished the 500 free in 26.01.
Wenger won the 100 free (57.17).
“That was a great swim,” Keller said. “We were counting on the points in that event.”
There was also a duel in diving as Jenna Denlinger of Northridge edged Emily Yoder of Goshen 219.45-217.45.
“Emily is a great diver,” Keller said. “She made outstanding dives and Jenna had to keep pace with her. They both did the exact same dive in the last round. Jenna came out on top and that started things for us.”