By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Out of the pool, Jacob Werley doesn’t strike anyone as the blood-and-guts, win-or-die type. Especially when he’s holding a pink flamingo in his hand. Kind of kills the vibe. Clashes with the dyed blonde hair.
In the water, Werley is a whirler, faster than bird of prey in strike, and now he’s a double Hoosier Hills Conference champion and record setter.
Werley won two events and anchored a victorious relay, powering Bedford North Lawrence to second place in the boys conference meet on Saturday afternoon. Floyd Central won the team crown in the eight-team clash with 380 points while the Stars were runners-up with 274.
The pink flamingo, named Cleo, has been the team mascot for the last four years. And it doesn’t exactly strike fear, nor is it a typical spirit animal. But Cleo was hoisted high when Werley and the Stars stood on the top block of the awards platform.
Werley was there often. He won the 50-yard freestyle, blazing home in 21.68 seconds, and he doubled up with the 100 free in 47.06, setting a new HHC mark (set by Jeffersonville’s Tim Martin at 47.43 in 2011).
”It was a really good day,” Werley said. “I dropped times in both events, and that’s really encouraging, not having even started taper as yet. That’s very exciting. I didn’t know what the record was, I was just swimming as fast as I could.”
Werley fast is water-churning, wake-parting fast. He was the top seed in both events and refused to lose.
“I have full confidence that kid is going to die, or win,” BNL coach Terry Tlustek said. “If he is on his game, that kid is a fighter. I knew from the moment he dove in – first off the block, first out of the water on the break. I knew he had it.”
Werley was the anchor leg in the 400 free relay, combining with Andrew Swenson, John Allen and Alexander Swenson to touch first in 3:20.11. Allen and Alex Swenson gave Werley a lead for the final push. It was already over.
“I know if we’ve got a lead, Jacob isn’t going to lose,” Tlustek said.
BNL’s other victory came from Alex Swenson in the 500 free. He was seeded third, but he roared home in 5:01.35 (an amazing 8 seconds off his seed time).
“I wasn’t that surprised,” Tlustek said. “I knew it was possible, based on what I’ve been seeing. At the beginning of the season he went 5:54. He’s dropped almost a whole minute from Thanksgiving weekend to now. I knew what he could do. I was happy but I wasn’t surprised.”
The Highlanders won seven events to claim the league crown for the fourth straight year. Dalton Lawver was a double winner in the 100 butterfly (53.09) and 100 backstroke (52.54 as BNL favorite Andrew Swenson was slowed by a week-long illness).
“Some of those Floyd kids came out of nowhere and got crazy fast,” Tlustek said. “So I’m happy with it, that’s about what I thought would happen. It would have had to have been a perfect meet to get them.”
BNL will now sit for a while, starting the taper process toward the sectional on Feb. 22 at Jasper.
“I felt like we were sitting around a lot before this week,” Werley said. “This will be a long time.”