Sophomore John David “J.D.” Wiese, who died unexpectedly Feb. 3, was a member of the Wildcats’ boys swim team and a big backer of the girls team.
Losing their friend and supporter, the Wildcats decided to dedicate the conference meet to Wiese.
“He was a man of faith and character that he impact of his short time here at Westminster will be for a long time to come,” Westminster coach Kent Kehr said. “The swim team bonded around his death and took their effort and attitude to a higher level. I always thought of him of a gentleman and a scholar.
“His faith was the most important part of his life and that carried over into his character and his humility. He was the smartest guy in the room but always projected his respect to all those he met. He was also principled and to the extent possibly stuck to what he knew was the right thing to do.”
All the girls wore special T-shirts at the meet to honor Wiese. The inscription on each T-shirt read: Swimming and Diving for J.D.”
He said he felt “joy” after the victory, which came at the expense of his wife, Leslie, who coaches the Bombers.
Kehr said he was happy “just to see the team pull together, root for each other, bond over the tragedy and put forth a huge effort.”
The victory provides a lift for his program.
“It’s a huge win and boost for the confidence of all the swimmers, not just the top ones,” Kehr said.
The Wildcats have four first-place winners in the meet.
Senior Lauren Massot won two events. She captured the 100 backstroke in 59.64 seconds and the 200 individual medley in 2:12.91.
“She was favored in the back but not the IM,” Kehr said. “She had to drop two seconds to get the IM. It was very grueling because the John Burroughs swimmer (Sophia Marusic) was on her the whole time.”
Neither of Massot’s time were a school record.
In the 50 freestyle, junior Mackenzie Wieberg won in 24.89 seconds. She just nipped John Burroughs’ Barrett Carlson, who was a so-close second at 24.96.
It was a race Kehr said he won’t soon forget.
“(It was) Probably the most iconic event of the whole meet as it was all-out effort between rival schools and rival spouses,” Kehr said. “Burroughs swimmer Barrett Carlson was favored by a little to win but touched out by Weiberg. Both competitors hugged afterward and were exuberant in their effort times and respected each ones performance.
“The teams and spouses are fierce competitors and love the rivalry.”
In the 1-meter diving competition, senior Avery Iven won with 199.85 points.
“Avery was favored,” Kehr said. “She had made state earlier in the year. his performance was very strong with really hard judges. She won by only three over her teammate Izzy Haupfear (196.15).”
Other Wildcats performed well in the meet.
Payton Dunn was second in the 500 free with a time of 5:27.46 and in the 100 fly with a time of 1:01.02.
The Wildcats were third in all three relays. Westminster’s time in the 200 free relay was 1:50.24. In the 200 medley relay, the time was 3:50.29. In the 400 free relay, Westminster’s time was 1:57.19.
“Mackenzie Wieberg had all of her swims as personal bests,” Kehr said. “(A) Remarkable performance qualifying in the 50 free, 100 fly, final leg of the qualifying 200 medley relay, and leading the 400 free relay to their best time of the year and state as well.”
The reaction by the girls was memorable, Kehr said.
“They were ecstatic,” Kehr said. “There was screaming, yelling, tears and joy.”
Then the team celebrated by dunking Kehr.
“(I was) Thrown in with my assistant Marjan Kempen and then joined by the whole team,” Kehr said.
Now, it’s on to the state meet for the Wildcats who have qualified. The two-day state swimming and diving championships begin Friday (Feb. 19) at the Rec-Plex in St. Peters.