DUNLAP — And the streak goes on.
The Northridge Raiders finished first in nine events and tied for the top spot in one other to amass 511 1/2 points and win the program’s 15th consecutive NLC boys swimming championship Saturday at Concord High School.
“Over the years I’ve been asked whether it’s harder to win the first or the 15th. The first one is a challenge, because you have to teach the skills needed to do it and get the kids to believe they can win it,” Northridge coach Joe Keller said. “The guys did a really good job today. There were a number of good performances throughout the meet.
“I know the guys are tired, but I kept telling them no one on the other teams care if you are tired. Champions find ways to win even when they are tired.”
Keller did acknowledge the fact 15 championships in a row is quite an accomplishment.
“It’s a big step for our program,” Keller said. “This group has been together for awhile and has become a family. We have gotten great leadership from our seniors. There have been some people who feel after this year’s senior class graduates we could be beaten, but I think we showed today the well is far from dry.”
Warsaw finished second in the team standings with 428 points, followed by Wawasee 314 1/2, Concord 300 1/2, Goshen 216 1/2, Elkhart Memorial 138, Plymouth 102 and NorthWood 90.
Northridge had a pair of individual double winners as senior Austin Flager took the 50-yard freestyle (21.27) and the 100 backstroke (52.48) and junior Jonathan Stoller the 200 individual medley (1:59.12) and the 100 butterfly (53.43).
Flager’s time in the 50 free was the only meet record. Ben Christoffel of Wawasee set the old mark of 21.30 in 1994.
Northridge freshman Seth Cripe was involved in one of the day’s more unusual finishes as he and Wawasee senior Sebastian List finished in a tie for first place in the 200 free (1:47.66).
“I have seen a tie for first place before I just can’t remember when,” Keller said. “That was a very good race. We had told him that List would go out fast.”
Northridge’s other individual winners were senior Joe Mueller in the 500 free (4:48.08) and junior Taylor Berkey in diving (479.25 points).
The Raiders finished first in all three relays as senior AJ Bernth, Stoller, Flager and junior Takoda Friesen won the 200 medley (1:37.69); Bernth, Flager, Friesen and Stoller the 200 free (1:28.57) and freshman Conner Sandt, Cripe, senior Tyler Matthews and Mueller the 400 free (3:18.85).
Matthews and Mueller are two of the senior leaders for the Raiders.
“The two of them are great examples of how you can become an outstanding athlete in this sport based on the amount of time you are willing to put in,” Keller said. “I remember when they were freshmen they didn’t make the sectional roster. So one day in practice they were having a time trial and both of them broke 5:20 in the 500 free for the first time. That was quite an accomplishment for them.”
Mueller placed second in the 500 free in last year’s NLC meet.
“This year’s team has bonded more than anyone I’ve ever been on,” Mueller said. “We have a group of personalities that blended together as a family.”
Mueller also sings in the Northridge show choir and he credited some of the leadership skills he learned in choir for helping him this season on the swim team.
“It was a big change this year going from one who followed the leaders on the swim team to being one of the leaders that others followed,” he said. “I have been one of the leaders in show choir for the past couple of years and that experience helped me make the transition.”
Matthews shared how he looked up to Brian Deak, when he was a senior in the Northridge program.
“I always admired the way Brian worked and have tried to lead by showing others what can be accomplished by doing the work,” Matthews said.
Matthews isn’t bothered by the fact he might not get as much publicity as some of the other swimmers on the team.
“I’m still on a winning team and I’ll take that,” he said. “It’s feels unbelievable to be part of another NLC championship team. I have never been on a losing team in my entire high school career.”
Goshen senior Adam Bratten placed third in the 200 IM (2:01.78) and the 100 back (55.50) and sophomore Sam Bowser third in diving (355.65) to lead the Redskins. Bratten, senior Tyler James, senior Daniel Swihart and sophomore Ian Duell were third in the 200 medley relay (1:48.08).
“We didn’t have a lot of swims today, but nearly every one of them were best times,” Goshen coach Nate Duell said. “Some of them surprised me because they were from kids that had lifetime best on Thursday.
“Bratten had an outstanding day. He has been a leader for us all season. Noah Shreiner had another good day for us and so did Kyle Butler. Butler was the No. 15 seed in the butterfly. I told him there was no where to go but up. He dropped nearly five seconds off his seed time and moved up to 113th place.
“I told the team after the meet we are in a very good position for sectional.”
Nate Long of Warsaw earned Coach of the Year honors.
Northridge boys swim to 15th straight conference championship
DUNLAP — And the streak goes on.
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