• Wildcats maintain focus on state goals

  • The Blue Springs girls swimming and diving team starts every season with one meet in mind – the MSHSAA State Championships.

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  • The Blue Springs girls swimming and diving team starts every season with one meet in mind – the MSHSAA State Championships.
    So two weeks ago, when the Wildcats ended their 12-year reign as conference champions of the Suburban Big Six, there was disappointment, but Blue Springs coach Bill Shalley insisted it was the kind of letdown that comes after losing any big meet. Winning conference is great, he said, but it’s always been a byproduct of the greater goal the Cats work for. And that is this state, which starts with today’s preliminaries at the St. Peters Rec-Plex in suburban St. Louis.
    “My entire career at Blue Springs we’ve started with the end in mind,” Shalley said. “It represents our sport at the highest level.”
    Here’s the other thing, at the conference meet the Cats weren’t tapered or shaved and yet they still manufactured an effort that Shalley said was solid, even if it didn’t yield the place they wanted.
    “Taking second was really hard,” said junior Corinne Rinne, who will compete in the 100-yard breaststroke (in which she finished fourth at state last year), the 200 individual medley and on two of the Wildcats’ three relay teams. “But we came in Monday and we sat down and talked about it. Reflecting on the meet, we all had great swims.”
    Shalley downplayed the idea that this weekend will offer his team a shot at redemption after the conference disappointment, because this is what the focus is always on anyway.
    “State’s the first thing we talk about on the first day we get here to practice,” said sophomore Ashley Sturman, who finished first at conference in the 500 freestyle, will also swim in the 200 freestyle and should see some relay action as well. “We always make a team goal of what our placing at state should be for that year.”
    Sturman said this year the Wildcats are thinking a top-four finish is in play. She’ll also be looking to bounce back from a disappointing state experience as a freshman. After a standout rookie campaign, she failed to make it past the first day at state when she ripped her technical suit.
    Admittedly, Sturman said the issue that day was as much mental as anything. A year later, Shalley says she’s matured enough that a similar lapse is unlikely.
    “She won’t do that again,” he said. “She’s much more mature. She knows what she has to focus on. She has to focus on her performances, period no matter what. And she’ll do that.”
    Other Blue Springs qualifiers are Amy Jorgensen and Alyssa Aubuchon (50 freestyle); Cali Bissell, Ali Mata and Mariah Hagerty (diving); Liz Oles (100 butterfly) and Angela Anderson and Lindsey Meyer (100 backstroke). The Cats will also bring 200 medley and 200 and 400 freestyle relay squads. Shalley said the lineups for each of those squads haven’t been finalized, but Alex Crookston, LeighAna Dietiker, Marie Kurucz, Yuki Shibanuma and Katie Smith could be in the mix.
    Page 2 of 2 - “This is a really good group,” Shalley said. “They should do well, it’s just a matter of convincing them to believe in themselves.”

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