The Waynesville High School girls’ varsity swim team has found success in relay events this season, ranking in the top 20 among schools in southwest Missouri in three events.
The Lady Tigers are ranked 15th in the region in the Women’s 400-meter Medley Relay, setting a time of 4:40.89 at the All Relay Meet held Dec. 5 in Springfield, Missouri. The Waynesville team also ranked 19th in the Women’s 200 Medley Relay at that same meet, setting a time of 2:22.93, and the team is ranked 17th in the Women’s 200 Free Relay after setting a time of 2:04.74 Dec. 14 at the Valkyrie Invitational Dec. 14 at Parkview High School.
Now at the midpoint of their season, the Lady Tigers have persevered through several challenges, including the intermittent loss of their practice facility due to mechanical issues that temporarily closed the indoor pool at Davidson Fitness Center.
“The girls have maintained focus and continued to drive forward even with a minimum amount of time in the water,” said Amber Earl, WHS head coach.
This is just the second year of the WHS swimming program, which Earl developed from scratch.
This year’s team is comprised of 13 swimmers, including five returning athletes and eight new swimmers, and includes three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen, building a breadth of experience for the future of the program.
“I am working hard to make it to state, at least in the 50-meter freestyle or a relay,” said Sophia Shipley Johnson, a senior and captain of the team.
Shipley Johnson, who has been swimming for 11 years, is a freestyle sprinter who thrives on the competition and pushing herself. She said swimming has been a constant in her life.
Another of the team’s leaders, senior Melanie McQueen primarily swims backstroke and has also earned some success for Waynesville this season, which she attributes to Earl’s instruction.
“I enjoy being on the swim team, and it relieves stress for me,” McQueen said. “When I’m in the water, I don’t have to worry about the outside world.”
Junior Jasmine Cassidy is in her second year of swimming in the program, and said she has seen a lot of improvement. She typically swims freestyle and also competes in the butterfly.
“Swimming consumes my winter, but it’s really the highlight of my day when I get in the pool,” she said. “I tried out for the team on impulse, and my coach welcomed me so fast.”
Among the team’s freshman swimmers is Earl’s daughter, Kathleen Earl, whose strongest stroke is the butterfly. Swimming competitively for the past 10 years, she said being coached by her mother may look like a burden to her teammates but seems normal to her.
“She’s pretty much been coaching me my whole life,” the younger Earl said.
The team has two regular-season meets scheduled now through Feb. 7, when they will begin the preliminaries to the Southwest Missouri Championships.
Tigers compete at Springfield
The WHS girls’ swim team competed against multiple schools in the Springfield, Missouri, area Friday. Among the top finishers for WHS:
— Melanie McQueen finished 12th out of 22 swimmers in the girls’ 200-yard freestyle in 2:44.37.
— Sophia Shipley-Jonson finished sixth out of 11 competitors in the 200-yard individual medley in 2:46.31. She also was eighth among 36 competitors in the 100-yard freestyle (1:01.79).
— Elisabeth Stock finished fifth in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 6:59.03. Stock was also 15th among 41 swimmers in the 50-yard freestyle in 31.86.
— The WHS 200-yard freestyle relay team of Stock, McQueen, Shipley-Johnson and Victoria Rondon finished eighth (2:07.62).
Freshmen Lily Peace, Kathleen Earl and Rondon, junior Jasmine Cassidy and McQueen, a senior, all set personal bests in individual events.