Column: Line Drives — Patriots are having a special season

[This is my column in the Feb. 5 issue of The Commercial Review.]

The Jay County High School girls swim team is good.

How good?

Just take a look at the record book.

But I’ll get to that later.

With its victory last week over the Marion Giants, the girls finished the year with a record of 15-1, tying the mark for wins in a season set in 2012-13.

Almost all of them have been convincing victories, too.

The biggest margin for the ladies was the season opener against new Allen County Athletic Conference rival Adams Central. The Patriots scored a whopping 221 points to just 76 for the Jets.

They went on to win eight more dual meets — by 52, 85, 14, 82, 33, 89 and 58 points respectively, including a forfeit by Liberty Christian — before suffering their first loss in nearly two years.

The Yorktown Tigers defeated Jay County 97-89 on Jan. 13. The last time they lost a dual meet was Jan. 15, 2013, to the Muncie Central Bearcats.

The girls took the loss to the Tigers hard.

“They responded like I’d hope they’d respond,” said JCHS swim coach Matt Slavik. “They responded with a renewed interest. They came in, buckled down and got back to practicing.

“Our intensity levels went way up and the girls did an outstanding job responding. It made me extremely proud of them to see the way they responded. It could have been an easy point to hang their heads.”

But they didn’t.

The next time they got in the pool to compete, it resulted in a 189-115 victory over Bellmont Jan. 15. Five days later the Patriots snapped a 15-year losing streak to Muncie Central, beating the Bearcats by 38 points.

The momentum continued, as they handled Celina, Blackford, Muncie Burris and Marion, all the while securing the inaugural ACAC championship.

The success this year, however, is no anomaly. Jay County has been good for quite some time.

Over the last four seasons, the Patriots are a stunning 55-5, including a perfect 11-0 last year. In the last three years, they’re 41-2. The last two? 26-1.

Pretty remarkable.

What has made this team so good over the last four years?

“We’ve been extremely blessed with our feeder systems,” said Slavik. “We’re lucky to have a program that people have bought into.

“We’ve just been able to replenish what we’ve lost. I’ve been very fortunate to have an outstanding group of kids year in and year out.”

For senior Katy Smeltzer, who has seen the program grow into the sectional favorite this season — sectional preliminaries begin at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Jay County — the reason for the success is simple.

“I think it’s been an attitude change this year,” she said. “From what I’ve seen, each year we work a little bit harder. The practices this year compared to freshman year are completely black and white.

“It kind of gets everyone excited and hyped up about it. It’s brought a new positive attitude, a very confident attitude and that’s exactly what we need going into (sectional).”

Still not impressed?

Let’s take a look at the record book.

All of the swimming records are from members of the 2014-15 team.

In fact, four swimmers have a part in all of them.

Better yet, only one is a senior.

Smeltzer, one of three seniors on the team, is a member of all three record-holding relay teams, which set new school marks this season.

Juniors Anne Vormohr and Sophie Bader each have their hand in six records — three individual races apiece and all three relays.

Vormohr broke the record in the 100-yard backstroke as a freshman, set a new school mark in the 50 freestyle as a sophomore and beat her record in the 100 freestyle at the ACAC championships this season.

Bader set school records in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle at the state finals as a freshman, and at this year’s conference meet she broke her own record in the 100 butterfly.

Alex Bader, a freshman, is the fourth member of the relays, and also owns two individual school records. One of those — the 100-yard breaststroke — she set Nov. 22 at the Westfield Invitational, her first high school meet. She also holds the best time in JCHS history for the 200 individual medley, having broken her sister Sophie’s record at the ACAC championships.

Seeing their names on the board is a testament to the work they’ve put in.

“I take a lot of pride in it because I know at this pool and through this high school we’ve had a lot of fast swimmers,” Vormohr said. “To know that I’ve put in a lot of work, to see my name up there and the three other girls, I think it means a lot and it shows you that hard work, time and dedication pays off in the end.”

Smeltzer, on the other hand, is quick to shake off her accomplishments.

“I probably wouldn’t be on the board, honestly, without these three girls,” she said in reference to Vormohr and the Bader sisters. “I’ve been swimming with them since I started, so it makes it a little more special.

“It’s been an awesome ride.”

Four girls. Eleven records.

Dominating.

But it won’t mean as much without a sectional championship. And as favorites to win the program’s first sectional title, they have a burning desire to hoist a trophy.

“Personally, and as a team, it’s exciting because it’s never been done before,” Sophie Bader said. “I’ve experienced (sectional titles) twice through soccer, but I really want to experience it through swimming.

“It will bring a whole new atmosphere into this pool and this team for future years.”

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