The Blue Springs girls swimming and diving program had been in a bit of a lull in recent years.
A storied program that has won multiple conference and state championships hasn’t won a Suburban Big Seven title since 2012 and hasn’t earned a state plaque since 2008.
This could be the year that all changes.
This year’s Wildcats have a perfect 13-0 record in duals and have enough depth and talent to put the program back on the map.
“I see nothing but great things for these girls,” first-year Blue Springs head coach Kevin Bigham said. “This is the most talented team I have ever coached.”
So far, Blue Springs has qualified three swimmers (Maisy Kurucz, Shaedyn Read and Annemarie Rehbein), three relay teams and a diver (Natalie Sheehy) for state and Bigham expects many more to come.
“Carson Ludwig, Sierra Heuston and Brenna Walsh have a great shot at qualifying for state,” Bigham said. “Katie Garten, our sophomore diver, has been doing an amazing job and could qualify this year.”
Kurucz, a senior, is leading the way as she will compete in four events at state – the 100-yard freestyle, 200 freestyle and the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. She earned all-state honors with a 13th-place finish in the 200 free last season and aims to accomplish much more this time around.
“This year, for my personal goals, I’d definitely would like to be in the top three (at state),” said Kurucz, who added that she wants to break the school record in the 200 free, “and I’d like our team to be among the top teams.
“We have a lot of depth this year. We can get points not only by taking first place, but one through eight. This is a really talented team. All three of our relays have qualified and are ranked really high in the state. We’re all looking really good.”
Bigham certainly anticipates big things from his top senior.
“Maisy has already broken 2 minutes (in the 200 free) and got her state cut in the 100 free,” Bigham said as his team prepared for this weekend's COMO Invitational at Mizzou Aquatic Center in Columbia, one of the main precursors to the state meet. “And this the earliest in any season that she has accomplished those feats.”
Read, who has been a steady presence for Blue Springs in her first two seasons, has made the automatic state cut in the 500 free, and Rehbein, a freshman, has qualified in the 100 breastroke.
Bigham, who took over the Wildcats after leaving St. Joseph Central, has coached Read and Rehbein for a while and praised them for their work ethic and toughness in the pool.
“I coached a lot of them when I first started coaching at all,” Bigham said. “Shaedyn, Annemarie – those girls are tough. Those girls know how to swim fast, they are professionals. You just take them to a meet, and you know they are going to do an amazing job.”
And that’s exactly what Rehbein has done so far, as she exceeded her own expectations.
“It was a lot different coming into high school,” Rehbein said. “I had my goals, but I didn’t expect to achieve them so quickly. Now, I just want to get under 1:10 (in the backstroke) before state.”
Joining those three as an individual state qualifier is diver Natalie Sheehy, who qualified for state in the very first meet of the season. And that wasn’t even her greatest accomplishment of the season. Sheehy beat previously unbeaten Bailey Carter of Blue Springs South, who finished in the top four at state the previous years. She and the rest of the Wildcat divers have been difference makers.
“The divers helped carry us for a couple of weeks,” Bigham said. “We wouldn’t have beat Glendale without the divers. Natalie Sheehy is such a great leader for this team and she has some talent. When you see her dive at the meets, you look at her, and think, ‘That’s someone that’s going to score at state. That’s someone that’s going to get top eight at state.’”
With the state qualifiers the Wildcats already have, along with more to come, Bigham said he is hopeful that he can add the year 2018 and some names to the purple record board hanging high in the Blue Springs Centennial Pool-Plex, which displays all of the school’s all-state and All-American swimmers, team conference championships and team top four finishes at state.
“Our goals are to be the best that we can be,” Bigham said. “But we’d be lying if we said we weren’t hoping (to place in the top four at state). We would love that. I definitely see us adding some names to that (all-state) board. I don’t want to name any names and jinx them. I am really excited to get up there and paint those boards again. It’s been awhile.”