The Whippets will send three swimmers to the WIAA Division 2 Meet later this week following their performances during last weekend’s sectional. Shown are Ella Houwers, Grace Fanshaw and Brianna Zimdars. (Bob Mischka photo)


Whippets to send freshman to state


By Troy Sparks


Ella Houwers did the unexpected in girls swimming for Whitewater in her inaugural postseason career. The freshman punched her ticket to the 2017 WIAA Division 2 state swimming meet as an automatic qualifier by winning the 100-yard breaststroke in the sectional meet at Whitefish Bay.

In the last of five heats in the event last Saturday, Houwers had the second best qualifying time of 1 minute 10.21 seconds next to New Berlin Eisenhower sophomore Anna Oleniczak’s time of 1:10.06.

“I was really nervous,” Houwers said. “I was behind the blocks and my hands were shaking (before the start). I just had to go out there and swim my race and just go after it.”

Houwers got off to a fast start in the 25-yard pool. She reached the halfway point after two laps at 32.01 seconds and Oleniczak wasn’t far behind.

With one lap to go, the loudest cheers came from the spectators and swimmers from other teams in a down-to-the-wire finish between the two leaders. The Whitewater teammates were excited after Houwers touched the wall in 1:07.79. Oleniczak was second in 1:08.63. Houwers’ time set a new school record.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Houwers said of the win. “I was so excited and yeah, that was really surprising. I didn’t expect to cut that much time.”

Houwers stood on the starting blocks with more experienced and seasoned swimmers. The only freshman in the field kept her race strategy simple.

“(I wanted to) keep my shoulders loose and not go out too hard because then it’s going to hurt really bad on the way back,” she said. “I wanted to save a tiny bit of energy just when you’re going into (the race).”

Asked if this was her biggest moment so far in varsity swimming, Houwers said it was probably the best meet she has ever had.

Houwers also qualified for state in the 200 freestyle with a sixth-place overall finish at the sectional. She finished second in the fourth of five heats with a time of 1:58.24, exceeding her seed time of 2:02.13.

Sophomore Brianna Zimdars and senior Grace Fanshaw will compete at state based on their performances in the 500 freestyle. Fanshaw entered the race with a seed time of 5:33.73. Her time of 5:22.20 from the four heats combined gave her a fourth-place overall finish. Zimdars, Fanshaw and Houwers had to wait for the combined times at the Ashwaubenon, Colby/Abbotsford and Stoughton sectionals to make it official. It was Fanshaw’s second straight trip to state.

Zimdars swam in the third heat. Near the end of her race, the electronic clock in her lane (third) malfunctioned but her time was confirmed by a hand-held timer from a student official and Whitewater coach Gina Foucault, who kept time on her stopwatch. Zimdars’ hand-held time of 5:30.25 was good for sixth place overall.

“I’m not worried about it at all,” Foucault said when asked about the clock malfunction. “The timers did a great job behind the lane. They had the identical time I had, and we just move forward. It’s just one of those things that happens in swimming sometimes.”

The team took some time off to save their energy for the sectional meet. It resulted in some of the best performances on a bigger stage for the Whippet swimmers.

“We actually rested for this meet in particular so we can try to get some relays and individuals through the state,” Foucault said after the meet. “It looks like we may have (another) individual (qualify) and hopefully some relays too.”

Whitewater will be represented by the three swimmers and Houwers will get her first taste of top level competition in Madison.

“I don’t think I’m going to go into (state) expecting anything,” Houwers said. “I’m just going to go out there and swim my best and hope for the best.”

The state meet will be held at the UW-Madison Natatorium this Friday and Saturday. The diving competition will begin at 2:30 p.m. and timed swimming will start at 6:30 on Friday. On Saturday, diving will begin at 10 a.m. and swimming at 3 p.m.

Houwers will be assigned to Lane 3 in the second heat of the 100 breaststroke on Friday. Her sectional qualifying time is second best in the fastest heat. She will be in Lane 5 in the first heat of the 200 freestyle. Zimdars will take her place on the starting block in Lane 1 of the 500 freestyle and Fanshaw will be in Lane 4. Fanshaw has the best sectional qualifying time in the first heat. The top eight times in Friday’s races from the two heats in all events will advance to the finals on Saturday.

“Getting that first in the 100 breaststroke and securing a trip to state and that school record (was huge),” Foucault said. “(Houwers) also hit that school record in the 50 free on the leadoff on the 200 free relay.

“Relays overall went 12-for-12. Best times for the kids in (their) splits. It’s amazing. We went seven top-10 (nine in all 12 events). And a lot of people really put it together to drop some serious times.”

Junior Morgan Radaj finished sixth overall in the 50 free at 26.73. She passed Libby Hoof (26.73, 2008) for sixth on the all-time Whippet fastest times list. Zimdars moved up from seventh to third all-time in the 100 butterfly with her best time of 1:04.28, passing Megan Theune (1:04.48, 2005) and trailing Sara Foucault (1:01.25, 2014) and Sarah Schmacher (1:02.99, 2012).

Freshman Amber Krebs cracked the top-10 in the 100-yard backstroke and Zimdars’ 100 split time in the 400 relay (56.93) is good for fourth place on the all-time list.

The returning swimmers will have their work cut out for them if they want to set their goals on reaching the state meet someday.

“There’s always expectations in the offseason,” Foucault said. “Mostly, they put it on themselves because they want to do well for high school and club (swimming). (We have) a great group of girls and we’re returning quite a few of them. We’re always looking up to what we can do again next year but we’ll enjoy this (moment).”

The Whippets finished sixth as a team in the sectionals with 188 points.





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