By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Six first-place finishes. Four conference records. Two pool records.
Carl Junction left little doubt who the best team was Tuesday night in the Central Ozark Conference swimming and diving championships at Webb City.
The Bulldogs won three of the first four events and cruised to a second-straight conference title while finishing 48 points ahead of Carthage and 105 points ahead of the host Cardinals.
“It was great – great competition,” Carl Junction coach Stephanie Miller said. “I love close races. I’m really proud of the girls. It’s sometimes harder coming in on top trying to defend a title. I’m proud of them for hanging in there and it was a lot of fun.”
Carl Junction opened by winning the 200-yard medley relay in 1:57.74 – a state qualifying time – with Skyler Sundy, Abigail Wilson, Sophia Hensley and Alanza Montez swimming.
Chloe Miller then set a new meet record in the 200 freestyle by winning in 2:02.06, improving her state consideration time in the process.
Emma Lacey won the 50 freestyle in 25.95 seconds.
The 200 freestyle relay of Lacey, Montez, Sundy and Miller took first in 1:43.53, breaking the pool and meet record and improving upon their previous state qualifying time.
Then Sundy won the 100 backstroke in 1:01.05 – another automatic state time and another meet record.
The Bulldogs finished off the night with Miller, Montez, Sundy and Lacey winning the 400 freestyle relay in 3:51.44. That was a nearly six-second improvement on their seed time, and it set another COC and pool record.
“I’ve got 18 girls on my team, I’ve got to look at the stats tonight but I’m pretty sure all but two scored points which is phenomenal,” Miller said. “That’s just amazing. We won races but when we didn’t it was the kid’s best time. Chloe Miller won the 200, got us started. We won all three relays. Emma, her breaststroke best time even though she got second and Skyler popped a really good 100 back. Those three really stood out and Emma won the 50, too. That’s our senior. We’re going to miss her a lot.”
Carl Junction earned four other top-three finishes and placed a total of 17 in the top six.
“We loaded relays tonight,” Miller said. “Had some girls do all three of the relays instead of individual. I haven’t done that before but we really have good relays and they have fun doing them so why not?”
Busy day for Carthage’s Housh, Madison
At the first scoring update after five events, the Carthage Tigers were in second place behind Carl Junction. Nothing changed in the final seven events.
Carthage had one individual champion and 11 medalists, and though the Tigers were missing a swimmer, it didn’t matter against Carl Junction.
“You know what, we performed okay,” head coach Braden McBride said. “We had some personal bests and I was proud of that. We were a swimmer short but it wouldn’t have made that difference. Carl Junction’s just loaded. Repeat conference champs. They were heavily favored. I thought we did pretty well.’
Riley Madison provided the big highlight for Carthage by winning the 100 butterfly in 1:02.65. She also swam on the second-place 200-yard medley relay team, the second-place 400 freestyle relay and placed third in the 100 backstroke.
Senior Nadya Housh also had a big day for the Tigers. She swam on the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay and placed third in the 200 individual medley and third in the 500 freestyle.
“They’re all getting better,” McBride said. “I’m having a difficult time figuring out who’s going to be on what relay for state and who’s going to do individual events. That’s going to be kind of tough figuring that out. We have some seniors doing really good but we’ve got some up and coming young kids. Aubree Santillan finished second in the backstroke. Nadya Housh got on the podium I believe four times for our team. She’s a senior and we’re going to miss her leadership next year. She’s a good kid. Cassidy Smith in the freestyle did really well. She’s been taking some time off. Overall we’re moving in the right direction.”
Webb City’s Whitesell leads the Cardinals
Sophia Whitesell already had the best 500 freestyle time in the three-year history of the COC. She beat her own record on Tuesday night.
Whitesell won the 500 in 5:32.34 and improved her state consideration time by roughly eight seconds in the process.
“Sophia Whitesell was kind of on fire tonight,” Webb City coach Shawn Klosterman said. “She actually surprised me a little bit in the 500. She’s never gone that fast, in season or at a championship, so it’s a lifetime best. I think there were just so many big time drops it’s hard for me to name anything other than that.”
“I love seeing the close races and there were a lot of close races for first today,” Klosterman said. “That’s just so fun to watch. It’s hard to have a meet with no spectators but I think the atmosphere here was still pretty darn good and the racing went great.”
Webb City’s 200 medley relay was third – with Whitesell swimming the third leg. She added a second-place finish in the 200 IM.
The Cardinals had two other medalists. Skylar Powell was third in the 50 free and Kyndie Crockett placed second in the 1-meter diving.
Nixa, Republic combine for four wins
After Carl Junction, only Nixa and Republic came away with multiple winners on Tuesday.
Nixa’s two came in the diving and 100 freestyle. Lillie Blevins won the diving competition with 388.65 points and Ellie Turnbull won the 100 free in 57.40 seconds.
Turnbull had a big day for the Eagles; she also took second in the 50 freestyle and swam on the third-place 200 freestyle relay. Ellie Jett earned two medals, as a member of the relay and in the 200 freestyle.
Republic’s Karissa Metzger set a new conference record in the 100 breaststroke while winning in 1:09.18; she earned an automatic state time in the process. She also won the 200 IM in 2:19.79.
Ozark went to the podium in five events, including three second-place finishes. Jenabelle Justice was second in the 100 butterfly, Claire George was second in the 100 freestyle and both swimmers were on the second-place 200 freestyle relay, along with Emily Cobb, who placed third in the 200 free. All three swam in the 400 freestyle relay, which placed third, and included Avary Johnson.
Carl Junction 307
Webb City 202