Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Sports

February 24, 2013

PREP SWIMMING: Flager a champ

Northridge swimmer wins title in 50-yard freestyle

INDIANAPOLIS — Austin Flager had his day on Saturday at the 76th annual IHSAA boys state swimming and diving finals at the Indiana University Natatorium on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis.

Flager finished first in the 50-yard freestyle (20.37) and second in the 100 backstroke (49.17).

“Austin had a really good day,” Northridge coach Joe Keller said. “The 50 free was a great race. We have been working with him on the start. We want him to breakout on the first stroke. We wanted to work on the first half of the race, because we know he is going to be really fast in the second half.”

A year ago, Flager was the runner-up in the 50 free.

“It was very satisfying to win the state title in an event I finished second in last year,” he said. “It was a good race and I had a really good start. The coaches have been really working with me to breakout on the start. The second half of the race is my strong point and I use that to my advantage.”

The 100 back was just the opposite for Flager as last season he won the race (49.84) but this season finished second to Chesterton junior Aaron Whitaker who set a state record with a time of 47.29.

“Austin’s time in the 100 back was a lifetime best.” Keller said. “He went faster than he did a year ago. Whitaker was just uncanny.”

“The finish was good,” Flager said. “I trained hard all year long and so did he (Whitaker). It came down to a race. I had a pretty good start. He got me in the underwater swim. He is very good at that.”

Flager’s second in the 100 back came just one event after Northridge’s biggest disappointment, a false start in the 200 freestyle relay. Flager was the first swimmer. He took off and finished his 50-yard leg before realizing what had happened.

“I heard a crack either from behind me or over the sound system,” Flager said. “Instincts took over. I thought it was time to go.”

Flager’s teammates helped him refocus for the 100 back.

“The false start was disappointing, but the great thing about this team is the way they helped me through it,” he said. “It happened to me once before when I was a sophomore.”

Keller offered an explanation for what happened at the start of the relay.

“The official held the field for a long time and to what purpose I don’t know,” Keller said. “Once the swimmers get into position it takes a lot of strength to hold it. There was no reason to hold them that long.”

Northridge ended up tied with Bloomington South for 11th place in the team standings with 82 points.

Chesterton claimed the state title with 238 1/2 points. It’s the first state championship for Chesterton since back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009.

“Chesterton was just a step ahead of everybody,” Keller said. “The scary things is they are juniors. Think of how fast they could go next year. It just might be the strongest class in state history.”

Northridge’s day got off to a good start as the Raider foursome of Flager, junior Jon Stoller, senior Austin Bernth and junior Takoda Friesen placed fifth in the 200 medley relay (1:34.44).

Northridge was in the lead after the first two legs.

“That time is .2 off the school record,” Keller said. “It’s kind of amazing when you consider we switched Bernth to butterfly and Flager to backstroke for today’s race. Friesen was 25-second freestyler a year ago. What they did was pretty impressive. It was a great way to start the meet.”

The Raiders finished third in the state meet last season.

“A lot of coaches came up to me and told me they were impressed with how our kids pulled it together with the graduation losses we had and the transfer of another swimmer,” Keller said.

The coach was referring to Brennan Berger who over the summer transferred to Carmel.

“Berger was just a kid from another team,” Keller said. “He wanted to go to a school he felt had a chance to win a state championship. Instead he ended up leaving a team that was just as good if not better than as the team joined.

“Our dynamics were better this year without him. Sometimes it is addition by subtraction.”

Stoller placed sixth in the 200 individual medley (1:54.49) and 13th in the 100 butterfly (51.87).

“He had a really stellar 200 IM and fly,” Keller said. “This is the first time he has ever had to swim seven races like this in a championship setting. He’s exhausted. He learned from the experience and will be one of our leaders next season.”

Northridge had one noteworthy distinction as the Raiders were the only school in the state this year to win both a boys and a girls state championship in swimming. Northridge senior Brittney Walters finished first in the girls 500 freestyle (4:49.53).

“That is an awesome accomplishment when you consider how many schools in the state compete in swimming,” Keller said. “It say something about the kids we have, the parents we have and the community in general. It’s a great tribute to our program.”

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