Seward's Van Driessche sets two records in winning SoHi Pentathlon

Posted: Sunday, September 21, 2003

Jacqueline Van Driessche finished bringing the SoHi Pentathlon records into the 21st century Friday in a performance for the ages.

And the Seward sophomore did it all with a tender right leg.

Van Driessche won the pentathlon, in which swimmers compete in the 100-yard individual medley, the 50 freestyle, the 50 backstroke, the 50 breaststroke and the 50 butterfly, with a total time of 2 minutes, 57.58 seconds.

That total time breaks the pentathlon record of 2:57.94, which was set by Corise Bittner of Homer in 1992. Van Driessche also took care of the only other 1990s record at the meet, breaking the 32.60 breaststroke standard Palmer's Anna Brainard set in 1994 by .40 seconds.

In other pentathlon highlights, SoHi senior Leo Grasso motored to his first boys title, and the Stars made off with both team titles.

Van Driessche was not even favored to win the meet coming into Friday. That favorite was Soldotna senior and defending pentathlon champion Abby Kiffmeyer, who set pentathlon records in the 50 butterfly and 50 backstroke last year.

"I was expecting to get second," said Van Driessche, who finished fifth in the pentathlon last year with a total time eight seconds slower than her effort Friday. "When they called my name and said I'd gotten first, I couldn't believe it."

Part of that disbelief comes from an injury that has been bothering Van Driessche the past couple of weeks. She said she has a strained muscle in her right thigh that protests in pain when she spreads her legs to do the froglike kick of the breaststroke.

"The chiropractor said I have to lay off it," Van Driessche said of the sore muscle. "I had like two or three days to change my kick for this meet. I had to tighten it up.

"When I started the breaststroke, I still didn't know if I'd be able to finish the race."

Maybe that's why she was in such a record-setting hurry to get out of the pool.

Van Driessche said the injury also helped her at the pentathlon by freeing up time to work on her backstroke and butterfly in practice. Normally, that time would have been spent on the breaststroke.

Like Van Driessche, Kiffmeyer was not 100 percent healthy Friday night. She struggled this week with cold and flu symptoms and started using an inhaler to combat sports-induced asthma.

Kiffmeyer downplayed the illness after the meet, pointing out that Van Driessche set a standard that would have been tough to beat.

The difference in the battle between the two was the breaststroke, where Van Driessche topped Kiffmeyer by almost three seconds. Kiffmeyer was not able to make up that large amount of time in the other events.

Kiffmeyer won the individual medley, backstroke and butterfly, but still lost to Van Driessche by a half-second.

Soldotna coach Sohail Marey said Kiffmeyer was hurt in her effort to make up time by illness.

"Abby is a stronger swimmer this year than she was last year," Marey said. "She missed both her record times this year.

"It was clear that Abby was not 100 percent."

In the race for the boys title, Grasso improved on his runner-up finish to 2003 SoHi graduate Nick Sorrell last year. His total time was 2:44.48, enough to beat runner-up Kevin Wythe of Homer by about two seconds. Grasso improved on his 2002 total pentathlon time by .07 seconds.

"It just kind of came down to me," Grasso said. "I wanted to win. I knew that to do that, I'd have to swim my hardest.

"I focused on doing that, and that took all the pressure away."

Grasso said his weakness is the breaststroke. But when he finished that event in a respectable 31.46 seconds, he knew the title was his.

Marey said Grasso's win is special both for Grasso and the program because it is a tribute to Grasso's father, Leo, who died this summer of Lou Gehrig's disease.

Marey said the elder Grasso was an integral part of the Soldotna program for the past six years. The entire team wears black ribbons on their warmup parkas in his memory.

"He definitely wanted to win this one for his dad," Marey said.

The Stars also received top-16 finishes from Eve Green, Karina Petersen, Adrienne Marey and Marit Hartvigson to take the girls title and top-16 finishes from Aladean Marey, Nathan Grabowski, Keegan Birchfield and Nolan Schmidt to take the boys title.

Kenai 11-Dive Meet

Soldotna's Sasha Porter and Colony's Brandon Gonski triumphed at the Kenai 11-Dive Meet Friday at Kenai Central High School. Porter defeated runner-up Tory Coursen of Soldotna 205.05 to 189.20, while Gonski defeated Chul Gibbs of Kodiak 241.60 to 231.15.

Kenai 11-Dive Meet

Friday at Kenai Central

Girls results 1. Sasha Porter, Soldotna, 205.05; 2. Tory Coursen, Sol, 189.20; 3. Dixie Meeks, Kod, 174.45; 4. Caitlin Pettijohn, Was, 110.00; 5. Madison Gifford, Ken, 94.85; 6. Emery Tyler, Col, 85.05; 7. Caity Hansen, Ken, 79.25; 8. Shannon Harrison, Was, 58.50; 9. Jenna Larson, Was, 52.75.

Boys results 1. Brandon Gonski, Col, 241.60; 2. Chul Gibbs, Kod, 231.15; 3. Riley McCorkell, 190.70; 4. Nicholas Wise, Col, 188.60; 5. Jeremy Seteroff, Was, 172.80; 6. Ryan Adams, Kod, 159.40; 7. Brian Hibberd, Sky, 138.85; 8. Michael Pravo, Pal, 137.00; 9. Jerome Larson, Pal, 135.10; 10. Mike Retone, Ken, 135.05; 11. Bryan Scoresby, Pal, 132.50; 12. Dustin Mariman, Sol, 124.40; 13. Spencer McAuliffe, Sol, 123.95; 14. Joe Powers, Col, 118.95; 15. Nate Reichard, Was, 107.50; 16. Ryan Hogan, Was, 106.75; 17. Chris McGinty, Pal, 94.60; 18. Levi McCracken, Was, 48.45.

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