JOPLIN, Mo. – As head coach Braden McBride put it, the Carthage girls swim team doesn’t have a superstar.
But the Tigers did boast the deepest lineup on Thursday at the Joplin Invitational as Carthage captured first place by a wide margin in the pool at Missouri Southern.
“I’m very proud,” McBride said. “We have 20 young ladies on the team and we just have a good variety of strength of strokes. Several girls can do one stroke and other girls can do another stroke. That really has been the key to our success. We don’t have a pure state qualifier or a superstar, we just have a good group of girls, a really solid team. This is our third meet in a row that we’ve won. We’ve really enjoyed that.”
There was no better example of Carthage’s depth than the 200-meter individual medley, the third event on the slate. Carthage swimmers finished in the first four spots, led by Nadya Housh winning with a time of 2:55.08. The Tigers scored a combined 52 points in the event to open up a commanding lead over the rest of the field.
It was one of just two victories for Carthage, though. The other came in the final event of the day, the 400-meter freestyle relay. Carthage turned to Cassidy Smith, Hope Felt, Housh and Karsen Dininger who finished in 4:54.19.
“Throughout all the events tonight we placed four in the top 12 in several of them,” McBride said. “That’s really why we did as well as we did.”
With Carthage pulling away early, the meet turned into a battle for second place between Joplin and Lamar. The Tigers led all teams with four first-place finishes and trailed the Eagles by just two points with two events remaining, but Joplin’s Brenna Jones won the 100-meter breaststroke (1:26.10) and then Ava Perrin, Hannah Ewert, Grace Hughes and Jones placed second in the 400 freestyle relay to seal second place for the Eagles.
Jones provided Joplin’s only first-place finish.
“Her stroke is looking really well,” Joplin coach Ali Stauffer said. “We’ve been trying all season to kind of fine tune it to where she gets a better glide, more pull, more kick out of that stroke. Throughout the season it’s been getting better. Her time didn’t show what she’s capable of tonight but I know she’s tired, she’s been working hard.”
Stauffer said Jones has already turned in a consideration time in the event for the state meet and could squeeze into the top 32.
Joplin outscored Lamar by 23 points in the final two events.
The Tigers got off to a quick start by winning the 200-meter medley relay in 2:18.14 with Kaitlyn Davis, Emma Tennal, Meghan Watson and Abby Kluhsman swimming. Watson won the 100 butterfly in 1:08.97 and the 100 backstroke in 1:13.01. Lamar’s other win was the 200 freestyle relay, where Watson, Tennal, Kluhsman and Davis won by nearly 10 seconds.
Greenwood and Thomas Jefferson each had two winners.
Greenwood’s Fiona Wu won the 200 freestyle by more than 10 seconds and she won the 400 free by more than 20 seconds.
“She did really well dropping times in a bunch of events,” said John Mullen, who coaches Hillcrest, Marshfield and Greenwood. “She was gone for a month because Greenwood’s had a long break but she came back and did real well today. Emily Lesue for Hillcrest swam well. Rileigh Jamison (Hillcrest) did real well in her distance events and swam a new event. We moved some of them around today and they all handled it well. Tomorrow we leave to go to another trip so getting them to concentrate today was part of what we were doing and they did pretty well.”
Thomas Jefferson’s Caroline Martucci won the 50 freestyle in 29.93 seconds and she won the 100 freestyle in 1:05.74.
Maggie Groenke provided the best finish for Marshfield by placing second in the 400 free.
Lebanon’s best finish came in the 100 backstroke where Grace Johnson finished second. The team’s 200 free relay of Johnson, Tara Adams, Myah Hough and Olivia Reid took third, and the 400 relay of Reid, Adams, Hough and Johnson placed third in that event.
Nevada finished fourth in three events, the 200 medley relay, 50 free and 100 backstroke. Hillcrest placed fourth in the 400 free relay and had three scorers in the 200 IM with Alexis Allen taking sixth, Kana Shimoyamo eighth and Taylor Deloach ninth.
The Central Ozark Conference schools will now turn their attention to to the conference invitational on Jan. 24 at Webb City. This year’s version has some more significance.
“It’s the first time swimming is an official sport for the COC because over half the schools in the conference have it now,” McBride said. “This is a really big deal. All the champions will have meet records. We’ll have conference records. That’s really exciting. We’re hoping to do the best we can there.”
Joplin Invitational team scores
Thomas Jefferson 32