Ashley Hill left no doubt.
The 2019-2020 Cathedral High School girls swimming season was as successful as any in recent program history, and Hill – the program’s coach – said it will be remembered as such.
“The girls had a spectacular season,” she said.
The Irish, a team of seven seniors and significant youth, not only won a fourth consecutive city championship in 2019-2020, they also had an individual performer – senior diver Sophie Mernitz – finish with the best individual performance at the state meet in program history.
“It was just a good young team – with a great senior leadership core,” Hill said. “That really is what makes our program as successful as it is – is the group of kids that come together to lead our program. They make such a difference.
“The kids do such a great job, and that’s what makes it special.”
Mernitz finished eighth in the girls one-meter diving competition at the Indiana High School Athletic Association state meet at the IUPUI Natatorium February 14-15. The finish earned the Irish 11 points, good for a 27th overall finish as a team.
Mernitz finished with 447 overall points at state to earn the eighth-place finish, having qualified for the finals with a score of 322.95. She was 10th in the preliminaries with a score of 196.95, and had qualified for state with a score of 405.2 at the regional at Plainfield High School.
Mernitz won the sectional meet at Lawrence North High School with a score of 422.85.
“Soph had a phenomenal season,” Hill said of Mernitz, who also won the city title and who will dive for the University of Iowa. “It was neat to watch her do what she does best.”
Senior Gabriella Bunting finished third in the sectional in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:07.45, and also finished fourth in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:15.67. Bunting, who Hill called the clear team leader in ’19-20, had double shoulder surgery as a junior.
Bunting returned as a senior to break her own school record in the 100 breaststroke, a record she set as a freshman. Her 1:07.45 at sectional was the school record and Hill called it “a heck of a swim.”
“She was just amazing,” Hill said. “The amount of work and time and effort she put in to do what she did I think set the tone for everybody else in the program.”
Sophomore Samantha Klug finished seventh in the 100 backstroke at sectional in 1:04.02, also finishing 11th in the 50 freestyle in 26:37. Klug, also a volleyball player, was the city champion in the 100 free.
Freshman Sandra Granados finished 13th in the 200 individual medley in 2:30.19, and also finished 12th in the 500 freestyle in 5:52.04. Granados also won the city in the 500 free.
“Those are two big-kid races,” Hill said. “Her stepping up as a freshman was pretty exciting.”
Senior Emily Timberman – a collegiate-bound softball player – finished 10th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:14.52 at sectional and 12th in the 50 freestyle in 26.68. Junior Abygail Dravis finished 11th in the 100 butterfly in 1:05.38 and senior Kaylor Jasiak finished 14th in the 100 freestyle in 1:00.91.
Hill said Timberman and Jasiak both had “fantastic senior seasons,” and called Dravis – who won the city meet in the 200 free – a special kid who sacrificed individual opportunity for the overall good of the team. Junior Lindsey Huntzinger made the sectional team for a third consecutive season in the backstroke and butterfly.
The 200-yard medley relay team of Klug, Bunting, Dravis and Jasiak finished fourth in 1:57.62. The 200-yard freestyle team of Jasiak, Timberman, sophomore Elle Lewis and Dravis finished fifth in 1:49.80.
Also key were seniors Lauryn Woods, Izzy Sweeney and manager/coach Anya Neumeister, who worked with the program’s beginners this season.
“It was so much fun to watch her show her passion for the sport with people who had never done it before,” Hill said of Neumeister. “She just created a wonderful relationship and bond with them.”
As is the case with the Irish boys program, Hill said a strong core is ready to move forward from a girls team that featured a strong senior class in 2020.
“These seniors are walking away leaving a good legacy,” Hill said. “They can look back next year and a couple of years to follow and really see what they’ve built over the last three years. A lot of our kids are starting to realize that being a multi-sport athlete is heathy. That’s great to see.
“We try to give them a platform in which they can be successful and do more than one sport. To dedicate the amount of time that these athletes give to come in and grind and work … I think it brings a level of respect to one another. They hold each other accountable and support one another.
“It creates a really neat team dynamic that feeds upon itself.”