Incarnate Word Academy’s swimming standout Ellie Wehrmann wanted to do something she had not done before.
Wehrmann, a senior who has signed to swim in college at Kansas, sought to swim the back-to-back events of the 200 free and the 200 IM in a meet this season.
Red Knights coach Grace Burnworth thought the rugged COMO Invitational in Columbia was the place to attempt the feat.
“COMO seemed like the best opportunity,” Burnworth said. “Honestly, no one really knew what was going to happen. How her body was going to respond to such intense swimming in a very short time period was only going to be discovered at the meet.”
Well, the discovery has been made. Not only did she win the events, Wehrmann sank the competition.
She won the 200 free in 1 minute, 51.64 seconds. Her winning time was almost 3 seconds ahead of Tolton’s Laueren Hervey. Wehrmann followed that by winning the 200 IM in 2:04.97. She won that race by almost 4 seconds ahead of Cor Jesu’s Anna Moehn.
“COMO this year was a big risk,” Burnworth said. “COMO is a very competitive meet. This year, they required qualifying times to get into the meet, making it faster than ever. All of the girls that swam are incredible athletes. It was really amazing to see how many qualified for state over the course of the two days.”
Certainly, there was some questioning about the decision to swim in back-to-back events.
“Ellie received some questioning from other coaches and I certainly received a few comments on Ellie’s decision to swim back-to-back events at COMO,” Burnworth said. “I think that is what impresses me most about Ellie. She doesn’t see limitations.
“She simply searches for ways to better herself and to continue to grow as an athlete. She saw something she wanted to do, and blew us all away when she swam that weekend.”
Wehrmann has had a terrific career at Incarnate Word. She won the 100 free and 200 free at the inaugural Class 1 state meet as a sophomore, setting the Class 1 record in the 200 free with a time of 1:51.01. Last winter as a junior, she repeated her 100 free state title, going 51.69 in prelims to lower the Class 1 record. Wehrmann also finished second in the 200 free (1:52.62).
This year, Wehrman ranks first in the 200 free and the 200 IM.
Burnworth is pleased with Wehrmann’s performances this season.
“Ellie is doing incredibly well this season,” Burnworth said. “So far she has qualified for state in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 100 back, 200 IM, and as a key member of the 200 and 400 free relays. I would not be surprised if we see her qualify in every event this season.
“At this point, the only events she hasn’t qualified in, she has not yet swam this season.”
In the 200 free at COMO, Burnworth said “Ellie looked so comfortable.” Her race was impressive.
“She built through the 200 and every stroke looked strong. Her 200 this year looks more confident than it ever has,” Burnworth said. “She came out from her first underwater ahead, and stayed that way the entire race. She didn’t set a new school record. However, she did know she was heading virtually straight into a second final.”
With little time to prepare, the 200 IM was next. Burnworth said she didn’t know what to expect in the race.
“As the coach on the side, I had no clue what was going to happen knowing she had hopped out from the 200 free literally 12 minutes before diving into the IM,” Burnworth said.
She need not have been concerned.
“Her 200 IM also looked incredible strong,” Burnworth said. “Right off the blocks, she looked strong and on top of the water. She’s a very smart swimmer who is so purposeful in her strokes. I did get a little nervous as she turned into breastroke. She popped up earlier than typical on her underwater, and I wondered if she hit the wall.
“However, she fought to the end and looked strong throughout. At the end, she said it felt good.When I asked about the early break out, she laughed and said, ‘Wll, I was tired.’ Her ability to focus and swim masterfully even when tired is remarkable.”
The girl she beat in the 200 IM is talented, Burnworth said.
“Anna Moehn is an incredible athlete,” Burnworth said. “As a sophomore, we were all so impressed with her chase in the 200. With that in mind, having that kind of gap in a 200 IM is very rare.”
Wehrmann competed in two relay events at COMO.
“Ellie led off both the 200 free relay and the 400 free relay in prelims and finals,” Burnworth said. “In the 200, she led off with a 24.07 and in the 400, she led off with a 52.07. Both the relays qualified for state.”
Burnworth said she realizes her good fortunate to have an athlete like Wehrmann on her squad.
“As a coach, Ellie is a once-in-a-lifetime swimmer,” Burnworth said.
In the events she has qualified for at state — the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 100 back, 200 IM, and as a key member of the 200 and 400 free relays — Wehrmann is currently ranked in the top 5 in the state entry platform. She is ranked No. 1 in the 200 free and 200 IM.
“To hold some of the fastest times in those two events is incredible,” Burnworth said. “To hold it in five events, with more to come, is phenomenal. Her competitive discipline is incredible.”
No decision has been made yet what Wehrmann will swim at the state meet in Feburary.
“Ellie’s hope is to qualify in all events this year, so what she chooses to swim in will be entirely her choice,” Burnworth said. “I will support whatever her decision is for her senior state meet.”