Dec. 14—PENDLETON — As a sophomore, Maddie Heineman advanced to the 2021 state track-and-field finals as a pole vaulter for Pendleton Heights, seeming to portend even greater things to come for the three-sport Arabians athlete.
But her heart preferred another discipline, and she gave up her junior track season to focus on becoming a better diver for her senior season with the PH swim team.
And that decision is paying dividends early in the season.
Heineman remained unbeaten this year in diving competitions, posting a score of 188.80 Tuesday against New Palestine, good enough to defeat her nearest competitor by 40 points and — along with a four-win night from sophomore Ella Rector — led the Arabians girls team to a 114-72 win over the Dragons.
The senior boys diver for the Arabians also picked up the win as Ashur Grobey posted a score of 204.80 — also clearing the field by over 40 points — but the Dragons prevailed overall 108-78 to gain a split in the dual meet between the Hoosier Heritage Conference rivals.
Heineman also plays soccer at PH but did not have the passion for track she feels on the diving board. Skipping track season last year was a step she needed to make to better her chances of advancing to another state meet, this time in the pool.
“The decision was really made because what I wanted to do was this,” she said. “Track didn’t make me happy. I didn’t enjoy being there, and I didn’t feel like myself. It was totally different here in the pool.”
PH coach Amanda Safford said Heineman’s previous postseason success could benefit her this winter.
“Her diving just blows me away,” Safford said. “She is very impressive, and she is really focused on her craft. I hear from (diving coach Shelly Hudson) that she’s great at being able to focus and concentrate when there are distractions around her.
“I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but I feel that she works so hard in season, and I’ve heard her say that she feels that level of responsibility and wants to bring it home.”
Heineman’s victory was one of 12 for the Arabians as the home team took home the top prize in every girls event, although one was a shared first-place finish.
It was appropriate Rector was the first Arabian in the pool during competition as she swam the leadoff leg of the winning girls 200 medley relay to open the event. She was joined on the team by Ellie Ray, Kennedy Safford and Mallory Gentry.
Moments later, Rector added solo wins in the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke and was part of the 400 freestyle relay team to take first, along with Clara McIntyre, Stella Payne and Sophie Kaster.
“Ella is a really incredible swimmer,” Coach Safford said. “When it comes to getting in the water in practice, she puts the work in. It comes as no surprise to see the results from her because she’s a hard worker.”
Kaster added wins in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly, McIntyre won the grueling 500 freestyle by 58 seconds, Ray won the 100 breaststroke while Gentry edged teammate Alia Walters for first in the 100 freestyle and tied New Palestine’s Chloe Siler for first in the 50 freestyle.
The Dragons were on the verge of sweeping the meet’s three boys relay races, but junior Jacob Simpson stormed back on the anchor leg of the PH 400 freestyle relay to overtake Liam Fuller and pick up the win for the Arabians. Simpson also had wins earlier in the meet in both the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.
“He always likes a good race, and he can always bring it home,” Coach Safford said. “I love watching that.”
Simpson was joined on the relay winning team by Eli Brindley, Evan McKinney and Ian Christian.
The Arabians also had individual victories from McKinney (200 freestyle) and Brindley (200 individual medley).
The Arabians will remain at home for another Tuesday dual when they host Madison County rival Anderson next week.
Contact Rob Hunt at [email protected] or 765-640-4886.