By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In the young history of Ozark Conference girls’ swimming, the Kickapoo Lady Chiefs knocked off perennial power Glendale for the OC Championship on Tuesday night, outscoring the Lady Falcons 302-285 at the John H. Foster Natatorium.
And, while the Lady Chiefs led wire-to-wire, coach Pete Hill was never completely comfortable, given the depth that Glendale possesses.
“I knew the breaststroke was going to hurt us because we just had Paige (Lenahan) in there,” Hill said of the 11th event. “Glendale had four girls in there, so that did make me nervous. It dropped us down, we were 11 points ahead, but I knew we’d get that 400 relay.”
Heading into the final event of the night, the Lady Chiefs held a slim lead (270-259) over Glendale. But the 400-freestyle relay team finished ahead of the Lady Falcons by just over five seconds (3:53.07 to 3:58.11).
“I’m blessed this season to have three super-strong relays, and I can mix it up,” Hill said. “I’ve got girls that I can put in different relays and in different places. So, for us, this has really been a great year as far as the relays go.
“We have so much more depth than we’ve had in the past. Yeah, I lack it here and there, but I’ve got so many good 100 freestylers, so many good 50 freestylers… across the board I can put in a lineup that really carries us to the end.”
Kickapoo’s 200-medley relay team opened the championships with a first-place finish in 1:55.60 – an automatic state cut – and, the Lady Chiefs won their first OC Championship.
The Ozark Conference is a relatively new conference sport for girls’ swimming, Glendale coach Steve Boyce said. While Glendale has long been a power in both boys’ and girls’ swimming, the Lady Falcons and other girls’ swim teams at OC schools didn’t have a conference championship to compete in.
“We didn’t have Camdenton and Waynesville and some of those schools, so it was an unofficial kind of thing,” Boyce said. “And, we really didn’t have an OC championship. Just a few years ago, this championship didn’t exist. The COC was having a meet, but the OC was not. So, we finally started about four years ago doing it for the first time, so a small history.”
Boyce said there was a small gap where an OC meet used to be held, but it wasn’t an official conference sport because there weren’t enough teams to make it an official sport.
“Kickapoo took it tonight,” Boyce said. “They did a great job, and we had a fantastic team effort. We were actually way closer to Kickapoo than we were on paper, so we had fantastic swims all night.”
And, in typical Kickapoo-Glendale fashion, it came down to the last event.
“It was just a building all day long of that, for us to be that close,” Boyce said. “I think, if I added it up on paper, we should have been beaten by about 60, so we made a big run and just had a lot of kids step up and really have fun racing today. It was an awesome meet.”
Kickapoo senior Haley Angelo won the 100 backstroke (the 10th event) in 1:03.54 before Lenahan finished second in the backstroke, won by Central’s Jenna Skidmore (1:12.29). That’s when the Lady Chiefs’ 400-freestyle relay team of Nikole St. George, McKenzie Lowry, Emilie St. George and Lilly Doss secured Kickapoo’s OC title.
“It really means a lot,” Angelo said. “We have a lot of really great girls this season and it’s finally good to, after four years of swimming for Kickapoo, getting first place.”
Doss, who swam the final leg of the 400-freestyle relay, was happy to help the Lady Chiefs seniors come out on top.
“I think, more than anything, it’s really exciting because it’s something we haven’t done in a really long time,” Doss said. “And, a lot of girls who are four-year seniors are getting to experience all of the excitement of getting an OC title for the first time in their career.”
The O-Zone’s most recent Athlete of the Week – Parkview senior Audrie Duchscherer – collected individual titles in the 100 freestyle (54.25) and the 200 freestyle (1:59.10).
Ozark Conference Swimming Championships
1. Kickapoo 302
2. Glendale 285
3. Central 225
4. West Plains 125
5. Camdenton 117
6. Waynesville 73
7. Hillcrest 54
8. Parkview 46
9. Lebanon 40
200-medley relay – Kickapoo (Haley Angelo, Paige Lenahan, Nikole St. George, McKenzie Lowry), 1:55.60
200 freestyle – Audrey Duchscherer, Parkview, 1:59.10
200 IM – Hailey Richards, Central, 2:16.86
50 freestyle – Olivia Fiorino, West Plains, 25.60
1-meter diving – Chloe Cothern, Kickapoo, 386.10
100 butterfly – Ashlie German, Central, 1:00.90
100 freestyle – Audrey Duchscherer, Parkview, 54.25
500 freestyle – Emilie St. George, Kickapoo, 5:24.22
200-freestyle relay – Central, 1:45.95
100 backstroke – Haley Angelo, Kickapoo, 1:03.54
100 breaststroke – Jenna Skidmore, Central, 1:12.29
400-freestyle relay – Kickapoo (Nikole St. George, McKenzie Lowry, Emilie St. George, Lilly Doss), 3:53.07