The Blue Springs South and Blue Springs girls swimming teams are going to the Missouri State High School Girls Swimming and Diving Championships with a lot of confidence and hopes of bringing home some state medals this weekend.
The Jaguars are sending 12 different swimmers and divers for 14 events, while the Wildcats are taking eight different athletes for seven events to St. Peters Rec-Plex. Swimming preliminaries start at 3 p.m. today.
Jaguars coach Errich Oberlander said the girls state meet is always the hardest to predict but he hopes to get as many finishing in the top 16 as possible, meaning they would swim in Saturday’s finals.
“It’s a deeper meet (than the boys),” Oberlander said. “There’s more teams, so it’s a really harder to predict. We finished 16th last year, so I would like to improve on that. My goal always is to get multiple swims to Saturday.”
South has two relay teams seeded in the top 10, with the 200-yard freestyle squad (Raegan Hecker, Gabby Fournier, Taylor Branson and Kadie Clark) being No. 7 and the 400 freestyle (Clark, Fournier, Hecker and McKenzie McLean) being No. 9. Clark, a senior who will be a part of both of those relays. said she hopes that each one can make it into the top eight to earn all-state honors, which she said is a realistic possibility.
“The past three years, I have been fortunate enough to have strong girls to swim with in the relays,” said Clark, who’s made all-state in her first three years on relay teams. “We’re very excited, this is the highest our relays have been ranked going into state.”
Added Oberlander: “Our 200 and 400 free relays are in a good spot to make it to Saturday. If we could sneak one of them into the top eight, that would be a bonus.”
Another area where South could make some noise is in the 1-meter diving event. Last season, Bailey Carter finished second at state and she will be aiming for a gold medal this time. The Jaguars also have Delaney Jackson competing in her second state competition and senior Olivia Shaffer making her first appearance. This year, there will only be 32 divers competing because of the more difficult qualifying standards instituted this season.
“If we could have three divers finish in the top 16, that would be great,” Oberlander said. “Diving is another one of those weird things because it’s all determined on what you do in one day. The defending state champion from last year is back, and she is the only one who beat Bailey at the COMO (Columbia, Missouri, Invitational) meet earlier in the year. And there is another girl who didn’t dive last year that’s really good and was in the state title contention two years ago.
“There’s definitely that chance if Bailey is on and one of those other girls is off, sometimes that’s all it takes. It’s just about being consistently good. That’s how Bailey got that No. 2 spot last year.”
Other events South will compete in include Clark in the 50 and 100 freestyles; McKenzie MacLean in the 200 and 500 freestyles; Kirsten Markley, Lauren Markley and Anna Zweerink in the 100 butterfly; Hecker in the 50 freestyle; and the 200 medley relay foursome of Kirsten Markley, Lauren Markley, Alyssa Stone and Branson.
“I think my best shot at getting all-state is in the 500 free and 400 free relay,” said MacLean, a junior. “The 200 free will be a warmup race for me this year. The 200 is a little too short for me. The 500 I am able to gut it out a little longer.”
MacLean will face off with Blue Springs junior Maisy Kurucz in the 200 free, who is the lone swimmer competing in individual events for the Wildcats.
Kurucz also will be in the 100 free and is seeded at No. 16 in both her events. She will be looking for her first all-state finish of her career.
“I just really want to move in my placement,” Kurucz said. “I am definitely looking for a top eight spot. For the 100, I want to be in the low 53(-second) range. That would probably put me in the top eight. In the 200, I want to be in the 1:54 range.”
Added Blue Springs coach Maegan Ruport: “She has some really big goals. She wants to be in the top eight., That’s been her goal since day one this year. If she has a good swim tomorrow, she has a good shot at it.”
She will also be a part of the 200 freestyle relay team with Sydney Franklin, Gracie Lefholz and Carson Ludwig and the 400 free relay with Jenna Wright, Lefholz and Ludwig.
“There is only a half of a second difference between the No. 21 seed and No. 16,” Ruport said of her relay teams, which are both sitting at No. 21 time-wise. “We had our final practice before we got on the bus this morning and they look ready to go.”
Other events Blue Springs will compete in will include Wright, Brenna Walsh, Lefholz and Ludwig in the 200 medley relay and Natalie Sheehy and Tabitha Fritz in the 1-meter diving event.
Lee’s Summit North qualified the 200 and 400 free relay teams. The Broncos will take seniors Nhukha Nguyen and Clare Sabata, juniors Shelby Wiseman, Amanda Binger and Cassandra Nanninga, and sophomore Hayden Bentley to compete in those events.