Norfolk swimming and diving coach David Nelson has had some especially good days lately.
One of those days was Thursday evening watching the performance of his boys and girls teams against Lincoln Southwest — with the boys defeating the Silver Hawks 100-86 and the girls competing well in a 133-52 loss, unable to overcome Southwest’s depth.
The ‘good days’ began a while back when Nelson discovered that senior Audrey Stelling would be able to return to the girls team following hip surgery, but Nelson recently received some more good news when he found out that another senior, Carson Walker, who had knee surgery September 19th following an injury sustained early in the football season, was also going to return to the boys team.
“We thought that with all the things I researched, that he researched, that there was no way he’s going to be back; the doctor had even told him he wouldn’t be back,” Nelson said. “So in January ago I get a text from Carson saying, ‘I’m allowed to swim.’ I assumed he meant as part of his rehab, but he said, ‘No, I can swim.’”
“This was a shocking thing to me; it wasn’t long after I found out that Audrey was starting to perform for us,” he said. “Suddenly, this season that I had envisioned back in August, then had to rethink in September, I could go back to what I was thinking in August — and I can really think that now, because what Carson swam today — with a lot of passion and heart — was, I believe, a ‘best time.’”
According to Walker, his second place finish in the 100-Butterfly, was a “leap.”
“It still shocks me that I’m swimming; when it all happened the doctors were telling me there was no chance of my coming back for swimming,” Walker said. “I can’t explain how much of a difference physical therapy played in my comeback; I started January 4th, three times a week, really slow and really boring, but as it went along I just kept improving. Finally, at my last doctors appointment he said, ‘We’re going to get you back in the pool.’”
Walker mentioned that part of his motivation for coming back was based on his hope to someday swim at the collegiate level but, for now, the best part is being back with his teammates.
“One of the reasons why I started swimming at all was the people on this team, my friends; they are absolutely amazing,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier to be back. This meet was just my second meet, but it was definitely a game-changer for me; I shocked myself today — I took a leap with my 100-Butterfly with my best time ever.”
For the Panthers, according to Nelson, Walker’s return is important because of the “depth role” he plays.
“The boys team winning today against Lincoln Southwest, which has so much depth, was special and gives our boys team a lot of confidence,” Nelson said. “To win we had to have the right kids in the right events, and Carson was one of those kids who stepped up in a special way — swimming a 57.59 in the 100-Butterfly. He’ll make our relays stronger at conference and state which, overall, could make a 5-to-15 point difference, which could move a team finish two or three spots.”
Nelson said the Norfolk girls also performed well despite the depth mismatch they faced, mentioning that the Panthers “had some really good swims,” even though one of the team members became ill just before the meet and couldn’t participate, which meant Nelson had to “completely change everything at the last second which kind of threw us off,” and also meant the final team score “wasn’t as close as it would have been.”
Nelson said the Panthers’ “sprinting really looks good” and described a win by Annika Harthoorn in the 100-Butterfly as being noteworthy.
“Annika beat a girl in the 100-Butterfly — they might be the top two ‘butterfly swimmers’ in the state and at the state meet,” Nelson said. “So, her win against one of her primary competitors was really promising.”
Another swimmer that had an outstanding dual performance, Nelson pointed out, was Katherine Meuret.
“Katherine has been swimming for a very long time, and is the last of the Meuret siblings to swim for Norfolk High, so she’s been around the swim program forever,” Nelson said. “She’s developed into a very good swimmer, especially in the breaststroke; I think last year she surprised herself by making it into the consolation finals at the state meet. That is her best event although she’s been able to help us in a number of events.”
“Even though she’s a junior, she’s a leader for us with a great work ethic,” he said. “She’ll be an important part of our team going forward into the conference meet and at state.”
Meuret, who said she got into swimming “because of my brothers” and has been around swimming “my whole life,” swam a personal best for the season in both her 100-Breaststroke and in the 50-meter breaststroke split of the 200-Medley Relay.
“My best and favorite race is the 100-Breaststroke, which is the race I’m definitely hoping to qualify for state in,” Meuret said. “My times are very encouraging for me, coming off of a slight leg injury at the beginning of the year, knowing that I’m finally and continually getting faster in that event.”
“I’m pretty close to the cut-off for the ‘top 32’ times, but I’m getting closer to the automatic qualifying time — I do really well with taper,” she said. “I really want to get under 1:10 in my 100-Breaststroke, and I’d like to get into the consolation heat again this year--or better.”
All-in-all, Nelson felt both of the Panthers swimming and diving teams competed well against a Lincoln Southwest program that “always provides quality competition.”
“Today was a really good day for our teams; we had a really good meet — they got excited and amped up,” Nelson said. “It also helped that I cancelled practice tomorrow morning.”
Lincoln Southwest 86, Norfolk 100
BOYS: 200-Medley Relay: 1. Norfolk, 1:39.35 (Kellen Carney, Mason Olmer, Carson Walker, Caleb Harthoorn); 2. Lincoln Southwest, 5. Norfolk, (Benjamin Bugenhagen, Israel Klafter, Cameron Korth, Nathan Filipi). 200-Free: 1. Ben Spray, Norfolk, 1:51.39; 2. Nate Liess, Norfolk; 5. Ben Bugenhagen, Norfolk. 200-IM: 1. Olmer, Norfolk, 2:02.42; 2. Chas Nolte, LSW; 5. Korth Norfolk; 6. Klafter, Norfolk. 50-Free: 1. Carney, Norfolk, 22:41; 2. Tommy Palmer, LSW; 4. Walker, Norfolk; 6. Filipi, Norfolk. Diving: 1. Cayd McCarter, Norfolk, 435.20 pts.; 2. Nathan Hopkins, Norfolk; 5. Ian Matteo, Norfolk. 100-Butterfly: 1. Olmer, Norfolk, 55.51; 2. Walker, Norfolk; 4. Carlson, Norfolk. 100-Free: 1. Palmer, LSW, 49.05; 2. Carney, Norfolk; 5. Rylan Rasmussen, Norfolk; 6. Filipi, Norfolk. 500-Free: 1. Harthoorn, Norfolk, 4:59.99; 2. Kael Mlinek, LSW; 3. Bugenhagen, Norfolk; 5. Carlson, Norfolk. 200-Freestyle Relay: 1. LSW, 1:35.86 (Ethan Reida, Vincent Roux, Michael Fraley, Ashton Bailey); 2. Norfolk (Walker, Liess, Carlson, Spray); 5. Norfolk (Filipi, Rasmussen, McCarter, Korth). 100-Backstroke: 1. Harthoorn, Norfolk, 56.55; 2. Reida, LSW; 3. Spray, Norfolk; 5. Liess, Norfolk. 100-Breastroke: 1. Klafter, Norfolk, 1:11.83; 2. Jack Shaffer, LSW; 3. Rasmussen, Norfolk; 5. Korth, Norfolk. 400-Freestyle Relay: 1. LSW, 3:20.47 (Nolte, Mlinek, Fraley, Palmer); 2. Norfolk (Harthoorn, Spray, Carney, Olmer); 4. Norfolk (Liess, Bugenhagen, Klafter, Carlson).
Lincoln Southwest 133, Norfolk 52
GIRLS: 200-Medley Relay: 1. Lincoln Southwest, 1:52.00 (Allie Hathaway, Anna Heinrich, Isabella Morales, Marti Walstad); 2. Norfolk, 1:53.80 (Annika Harthoorn, Katherine Meuret, Audrey Stelling, Courtney Flohr); 5. Norfolk (Sydney Phipps, Makayla Clouse, Anika Wurdinger, Saskia Thielen). 200-Free: 1. Berkeley Livingston, LSW, 1:59.09; 2. Mlinek, LSW; 4. Taylor Rossman, Norfolk; 5. Flohr, Norfolk; 6. Waddington, Norfolk. 200-IM: 1. Morales, LSW, 2:18.37; 2. Peri Heyen, LSW; 4. Lindsey Marotz, Norfolk; 5. Leah Vanderheiden, Norfolk. 50-Free: 1. Harthoorn, Norfolk, 25.00; 2. Hathaway, LSW; 4. Stelling, Norfolk; 5. Morgan Herley, Norfolk. Diving: 1. Peyton Prussa, LSW, 393.25; 2. Aleni Stoakes, LSW; 3. Kiran Walker, Norfolk. 100-Butterfly: 1. Harthoorn, 58.28; 2. Livingston, LSW; 5. Malaysia Grimm, Norfolk; 6. McKenzie Curtis, Norfolk. 100-Free: 1. Hathaway, LSW, 55.09; 2. Marti Walstad, LSW; 3. Flohr, Norfolk; 5. Herley, Norfolk; 6. Windedahl, Norfolk. 500-Free: 1. Heinrich, LSW, 5:26.94; 2. Stelling, Norfolk; 4. Rossman, Norfolk; 6. Meuret, Norfolk. 200-Freestyle Relay: 1. LSW, 1:44.47 (Livingston, Reida, Mlinek, Hathaway); 2. Norfolk, (Flohr, Arin Bach, Windedahl, Herley); 4. Norfolk (Vanderheiden, Clouse, Marotz, Waddington); 6. Norfolk (Jenna Craven, Curtis, Grimm, Marisela Mora). 100-Backstroke: 1. Brady Reichmuth, LSW, 1:07.06; 2. Heinrich, LSW; 4. Windedahl, Norfolk; 5. Bach, Norfolk; 6. Vanderheiden, Norfolk. 100-Breastroke: 1. Heinrich, LSW, 1:07.58; 2. Mlinek, LSW; 3. Meuret, Norfolk; 5. Craven, Norfolk; 6. Clouse, Norfolk. 400-Freestyle Relay: 1. LSW, 3:49.20 (Livingston, Walstad, Morales, Heinrich); 2. LSW (Heinrich, Heyen, Reichmuth, Mlinek); 3. Norfolk (Harthoorn, Rossman, Herley, Stelling); 4. Norfolk (Waddington, Meuret, Windedahl, Bach); 6. Norfolk (Walker, Clouse, Mora, Isabella Steskal).