By Michael Cignoli (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SPRINGFIELD — Kickapoo swimmers won eight of the afternoon’s 12 events and established a new conference record, leading the Chiefs to their second straight conference title on Monday.
Six different Chiefs took home first-place medals at the Ozark Conference Championship meet at the John H. Foster Natatorium, including four who won multiple events, as the Kickapoo girls ended with 303 points, 27.5 clear of second-place Glendale. No other team had more than 197.
The scoring system awarded points for top-12 finishes in individual events and top-8 places in relays, which heavily benefitted a depth-rich team like the Chiefs, which returned most of last year’s title-winning team. Twelve different swimmers and a diver scored points for Kickapoo.
“We’ve just got enough people where I can put four people in each event and that really helps us get to the end of the meet and win,” Chiefs coach Pete Hill said. “That’s it. It’s just the numbers and having the strength within those events.”
No swimmer had better numbers — or swam stronger — than Kickapoo’s Ashlyn Moore.
The junior led the way with four victories, including a record-setting finish in the 100 free that earned her an automatic invitation to the state championship meet next month.
Moore finished the race in 54.4 seconds, eclipsing the 55.07 mark Glendale standout Ashley Baldwin established in 2019, and swam the opening leg on Kickapoo’s 200 medley relay team that won the afternoon’s first race with a state-qualifying time of 1 minute, 58.19 seconds.
“It kind of sounds silly, but (my strategy was) just go all out,” Moore said. “Find that second gear where I can see everyone else, but go as fast as I can and finish up with whatever I have left.”
She added a second individual title in the 100 back, winning in 1 minute, 3.73 seconds, and closed out the day by leading the 400 free relay team to a win in 3 minutes, 51.91 seconds.
Juniors Emilie St. George and Nikole St. George each had a role in three victories for Kickapoo. Senior Paige Lenahan had a pair of wins, while junior Lilly Doss and sophomore McKenzie Lowry each swam a leg on a championship relay team.
Lowry, Lenahan, Nikole St. George joined Moore on the 200 medley relay team that qualified for state. On her 18th birthday, Doss anchored the 400 free relay with Moore and the St. Georges.
“It’s really exciting,” Doss said. “Especially as a senior, getting to win with our team for a second time was really fun because we didn’t really get to do that my freshman and sophomore years. It was really exciting last year when we did it for the first time and it’s especially exciting that we got to do it again.”
Emilie St. George won the 200 free in 2 minutes, 2.71 seconds and the 500 free in 5 minutes, 31.68 seconds, while Nikole St. George’s time of 25.86 seconds was tops in the 50 free.
Lenahan took first in the 100 breast, finishing in a career-best 1 minute, 13.74 seconds.
Central’s Jenna Skidmore out-touched Emilie St. George at the end of the 200 free relay, winning the race by .13 seconds and taking what would have been a ninth event victory away from the Chiefs. Ashlie German swam the opening leg on that Bulldogs relay, and added individual wins in the 200 individual medley and 100 fly for a total of three conference titles.
Glendale senior Maddie Smith won the diving title with a score of 397.8.
200 MEDLEY RELAY: Kickapoo, 1:58.19 (Ashlyn Moore, Paige Lenahan, Nikole St. George, McKenzie Lowry)
200 FREE: Emilie St. George, Kickapoo, 2:02.71
200 IM: Ashlie German, Central, 2:18.35
50 FREE: Nikole St. George, Kickapoo, 25.86
DIVING: Maddie Smith, Glendale, 397.8
100 FLY: Ashlie German, Central,1:01.45
100 FREE: Ashlyn Moore, Kickapoo, 54:40 (Ozark Conference Record)
500 FREE: Emilie St. George, Kickapoo, 5:31.68
200 FREE RELAY: Central, 1:47.86 (Ashlie German, Stella Riddle, Olivia Janssen, Jenna Skidmore)
100 BACK: Ashlyn Moore, Kickapoo, 1:03.73
100 BREAST: Paige Lenahan, Kickapoo, 1:13.74
400 FREE RELAY: Kickapoo, 3:51.91 (Ashlyn Moore, Emilie St. George, Nikole St. George, Lilly Doss)
1. Kickapoo, 330
2. Glendale, 302.5
3. Central, 196.5
4. West Plains, 142
5. Camdenton, 117
6. Lebanon, 96
7. Waynesville, 49
8. Hillcrest, 40