Girls’ varsity team members hope to build on success of boys’ first season
Story and photo by Heather Kline
The first year of the Waynesville High School varsity swimming program has been a successful one, so far.
Led by coach Amber Earl, who is a military spouse, the Tiger varsity boys’ team made school history in the fall, with three swimmers reaching the finals of the Southwestern Missouri Championship swim meet in October, and one — senior Joshua Adanck — competing at the state meet in November in St. Peters, Missouri, where he placed 13th in the 50-meter freestyle.
Now it’s the Lady Tigers’ turn. Currently midway through their inaugural season, the varsity girls’ team currently holds multiple consideration times — giving them the possibility of competing at the state level if their times remain within the top 32 in the state.
The Lady Tigers’ Relay Team A currently holds state consideration times in the 200-meter medley relay, the 200 free relay and the 400 free relay. The team includes senior Sophia Shipley-Johnson in the freestyle, senior Mikaila Duncan in the butterfly, junior Louisa Veeck in the breast stroke and sophomore Melanie McQueen in the back stroke. Shipley-Johnson and Duncan also hold individual consideration times in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events.
“My personal goal is to go to state in the 200 medley relay,” Shipley-Johnson said. “I started swimming when I was in second grade. I like that swimming is an individual (sport) where you compete by yourself, but it’s great to have a team to back you up.”
Shipley-Johnson’s goals also include swimming the 50-meter freestyle in 25 seconds and the 100 meter freestyle in 56 seconds. “I’m practicing hard to get there,” she said.
Also practicing hard is Duncan, who is working toward a 26-second time in the 50-meter butterfly as part of the relay team.
“Making it to state is my goal this year, and I already have a consideration now,” Duncan said.
Duncan added she was inspired to try swimming after watching Olympic swimmers compete in the 2012 Winter Games.
“I think swimming competitively is so much fun,” Duncan said. “It challenges you on a personal level, but I’m still part of a team. It feels like a family.”
Veeck, a German exchange student, said she wanted to learn to swim because her parents didn’t.
“I love everything about the water, and swimming laps relieves stress,” Veek said. “My goal in the 50-meter breaststroke is to go under 34 (seconds).”
The Lady Tigers varsity team is made up of 13 members. Each swimmer must maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to be a member of the swim team.
“Most of the team members are involved in many other extracurricular activities, including debate, Model U.N., Beta, band and student government,” Earl said.
All swimmers practice five days a week for two hours at the Davidson Fitness Center natatorium.
Having already competed at the state level on the boys’ team, Adank offered this advice: Don’t let anything get in the way of your dreams.
“Setting goals helps me,” Adank said. “I have set a 47 (seconds) or under in the 100-meter freestyle and 20 (seconds) in the 50-meter freestyle.”
Q&A with Coach Amber Earl
Here are the results of a recent question-and-answer session with Waynesville High School swim coach Amber Earl:
Q: This is the first year for this swimming program. What made you want to be their coach?
Earl: I coached USA Club and YMCA swim teams previously. I started a USA Club team in Georgia, so this is the second program I have started. I think this program is important for the students. We have a large number of new students moving into the community every year, students who have swimming as a part of their everyday life. I feel it is important for these students to continue to have the stability in their life that swimming provides. I also wanted the opportunity to introduce this sport into the lives of other young athletes. I believe that swimming teaches important life lessons, such as dedication and determination.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Earl: Watching young athletes grow through the sport. We have many athletes coming into the program who never swam before. As they learn more about the sport, they also learn more about themselves: what they are physically and sometimes mentally and emotionally capable of.
Q: What has been the greatest challenge you’ve had in your first year?
Earl: I think that the athletes will agree with me the travel has been the greatest challenge this first year. We have a wonderful partnership with the pool staff at Davidson Fitness Center for practices; however, we travel for all of our meets.
Q: What can we expect from your swim team in the future?
Earl: We started out with strong swimmers this first year on both the male and female teams. With such a strong base to build upon, I only see the team becoming more competitive with more athletes going to state each year. After the Lady Tigers season, we will start holding open pool (sessions), where any student who is currently in the ninth through 11th grade at Waynesville can come in and workout with the previous year’s team. I also encourage swimmers and students who are interested in becoming swimmers to sign up and take the lifeguard course at DFC. Details on open pool (sessions) will be posted on the Waynesville High School athletic page.