Four Lady Vikes compete at IHSAA Girls Swimming State Finals

Four Lady Vikes compete at IHSAA Girls Swimming State Finals
Posted on 02/14/2022
Qualifying members of the Huntington North girls swimming team smile prior to competing at the 2022 IHSAA Girls Swimming State FinalsFour members of the Huntington North High School girls swimming team represented the school on Friday night at the IHSAA Girls Swimming State Finals at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis.

Freshmen Annika Carpenter and Kaydince Kalhoefer, sophomore Delaney Houser and junior Kayla Reich became the first Huntington North girls swimmers to compete on the state’s biggest stage since 2018, as the quartet combined to form the Lady Vikes’ 200 yard freestyle relay team, while Carpenter also competed individually in the 100 yard backstroke.

The relay team punched its ticket to the State Finals by winning the event at the Jay County Sectional on Feb. 7. The quartet clocked in at 1:44.77 to clinch their automatic qualifier, becoming the first Huntington North girls relay team to advance to the State Finals since 2001. Carpenter then got right back in the pool for the 100 yard backstroke and turned in a school record time of 1:01.56 to punch her ticket to Indianapolis individually. Her time broke her own record set earlier this year.

Both the relay team and Carpenter entered the State Finals as the 31st seed in each event among the 32-spot State Finals fields. As such, the girls were able to simply take in the experience and enjoy competing on the big stage without the pressure of potential high finishes. After all, this ended up being one of the fastest State Finals ever, as new state records were set in six of 12 overall events and a seventh was matched.

The relay team opened the night for the Lady Vikes racing in the first of four heats of the event. The quartet performed admirably, posting a time of 1:45.82. Originally finishing in 32nd place on the clock, the Vikings ended in the 31st spot thanks to Westfield’s relay team getting disqualified, much to the satisfaction of the Huntington North squad upon learning of the news.

Head coach Mycal Rodenbeck was pleased with his team’s performance, especially given the circumstances of a quick turnaround from sectional.

“I thought their exchanges were actually pretty good,” Rodenbeck said. “Annika had a great first 50 leg. Kaydince even came back with a really good 50 leg for herself. Delaney and Kayla, they came back and put forth whatever they could. And we had talked about it earlier on, just the idea that mentally, we feel like we’re ready to go, and our mind is trying to tell our body that we’re ready to go, but physically, we don’t really know how we’re going to be until we get in the water. But, for the fact that they didn’t add a full second even, it was wonderful from that standpoint. Yeah, we added a little bit of time, but it could have been a whole lot worse, whole lot worse.”

With seemingly no time to recover, Carpenter was right back in the pool in the next event, swimming her individual race in the 100 yard backstroke, again in the first of four heats for the event. With such a quick turnaround, Carpenter performed well, matching her 31st seed with a time of 1:02.23.

“Annika’s 100, she had a great start, phenomenal,” Rodenbeck said. “And she only had, what, maybe six minutes of rest time going from the relay into the backstroke, so I was really impressed with her. I know it wasn’t the time she wanted, but the start was great, the first 50 was great. She might have had a bad flip turn going into the second 50, but again, you’re coming out of a race where you just went four-tenths faster than what you did on Monday and you go and swim another race. She did a good job. She does a good job of composing herself and staying focused.”

Carpenter noted that her coaches had been training her leading up to the postseason for the ability to have a quick turnaround between events and go back to back. Though she felt she could have performed better, she was grateful for the opportunity for herself and her teammates to compete in the state’s biggest meet.

“I really wanted to get here, and I really wanted to get here with my team, too,” Carpenter said. “I didn’t want to come strictly as an individual just because you’re all alone. This environment, it is just really cool to be a part of it and actually be swimming with some of the best high school swimmers of the state. … I hope that this is just the beginning of my high school career, and I’ll try to do my best to get back here as much as I can and just work as hard as I can to try and get up higher in the placements and just drop as much time as I can.”

Rodenbeck echoed Carpenter’s thoughts regarding the youth of the team and the swimmers who competed at the State Finals and believes this experience can help springboard not only the four girls who raced, but the program as a whole.

“If nothing else, it has shown these girls that they are capable of going out there and succeeding,” Rodenbeck said. “It always is one of those where they come in and sometimes they want to work hard and sometimes they don’t, and especially early in the season, early in the year, you never really know whether there’s going to be a chance (to get to the State Finals). And as the year went along, they kept seeing that ‘Well, there’s a chance, there’s a chance,’ and then at sectional, ‘There’s a really big chance.’ And I think having seen what they’re capable of doing and having been here now definitely is going to motivate them, and I hope motivate some of the others to really come back and push themselves. It’s possible, and that’s the key. Now they know it’s possible and now they want to go after the records that they didn’t think they’d be able to get and now they can, and now that they’ve experienced this, they’re most certainly going to want to try to do whatever it takes to make sure they come back again, and hopefully do better than what they did this year.”

With the pressure off of the swimmers and the mindset being focused on just learning from and enjoying the experience of being at the State Finals, Rodenbeck reflected on what it meant to him to get back to the event and be able to enjoy it with a number of his swimmers.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have swimmers that have come (to the State Finals) in the past, and it’s been a hiatus, it’s been a while, so it is always, as a coach, fun to come down here,” Rodenbeck said. “It’s fun to see other swimmers that maybe you know from other sectionals or other schools (and) previous coaches that have been around in the area. It’s a great atmosphere, and it’s just neat to see a sport that is so big; even if it is just down around the Indy area, it’s fun to see just how much people care about this sport still and it’s fun to watch these extremely fast races. It was a thrill this year, though, just to have a relay be able to come, so that made it enjoyable regardless. And that’s what we talked about: Regardless of the outcome, as long as we don’t get disqualified, even if we don’t break the (school) record, that’s alright. It’s been fun to be here. It’s a completely different atmosphere than what they are used to, for the most part, and sometimes that first time you come here, it’s a little overwhelming. You don’t really know how to take it in. … I was proud of all of them today, I really was.”

To no one’s surprise, Carmel claimed the team state championship for the 36th year in a row by a wide margin and took home championships in six of the 12 events.
Qualifying members of the Huntington North girls swimming team smile prior to competing at the 2022 IHSAA Girls Swimming State Finals

200 Yard Freestyle Relay

Annika Carpenter 100 Yard Backstroke
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