I’yana Foster’s strong suit in swimming has always been the sprints, those races that seem over in the blink of an eye.
During her freshman year at Blue Springs, Foster developed a liking for another sport that seems the polar opposite of her specialty – cross country.
“I like swim, but I fell in love with running this year,” Foster said. “I just like all the bonding and stuff.”
Foster’s love for running didn’t supplant her love for swimming, and it certainly didn’t keep her from a big first year in the pool with the Wildcats. She’s entered in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle in the Class 2 state swimming and diving meet, which begins Friday at the St. Peters Rec-Plex in suburban St. Louis.
In both races, Foster has times good enough to put her in contention for finishing in the top eight and earning all-state honors.
“She’s got a great shot to earn first-team all-state as a freshman,” Blue Springs coach Kevin Bigham said. “That’s something that hasn’t been done at the school probably 10 years or so. We’re really excited to see how she performs.”
Foster’s first fling with cross country was also successful, culminating with an appearance in the Class 4 state meet. And while running 5 kilometers over hill and dale surely improved her stamina, Foster didn’t think it helped her swimming.
“If I run too much, it kind of interferes with my sprinting in swim,” Foster said. “I don’t have the momentum to keep going faster because my legs are tired.”
But the cross country season ends well before girls swimming begins, and that gave Foster time to regain that momentum. She took second in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle in the Suburban Big Six meet, and she goes to state with the 11th-fastest qualifying times in both events: 24.88 seconds for the 50 free, 54.21 in the 100 free.
“I’yana’s just an athlete,” said Bigham, who has no qualms about her second sport. “I’yana’s been a blast to coach just because she just has tons of athleticism. She likes to race, she likes to compete, she likes to get after it … everything you could hope for as a coach.”
Foster is one of six individuals and three relays Blue Springs has qualified. Junior Annemarie Rehbein, a returning all-state performer, is entered in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, both of which she won in the Big Six meet. Rehbein has the third-fastest qualifying time in the 100 breaststroke, which she placed seventh in the state meet last year.
Senior Jenna Wright is in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke, two races she hasn’t competed in before at state. The Wildcats also have Katie Garten, a first-team all-state finisher last year, Mackenzie Loudermilk and Shayla Aten entered in 1-meter diving.
“We’re going for top 10 based on the numbers and the depth that we have,” Bigham said. “If we can do top 10, that’s going to say a lot about our program.”
Blue Springs South has three individual entries in Regi Hecker, Anna Zweerink and diver Kaylee Lombardo. Hecker will swim the 50 and 100 freestyles while Zweerink will compete in the 100 butterfly. The Jaguars are also entered in all three relays.
“This state meet keeps getting faster and deeper all of the time,” Blue Springs South coach Errich Oberlander said. “If we can drop some time and swim well we have a chance of making finals in almost every race. That is always difficult, but if we can do that, then it will be a very successful meet.”
Lee’s Summit North freshman Anna Hess has a shot at being a two-time medalist in her first state meet. Hess has the fifth-best time in the 100 butterfly and the sixth-best in the 100 backstroke, two events she won at the Big Six meet. Madison Goff is entered in the 50 freestyle.
North also has diver Annica Valmassei, who finished fourth last season, and three relay teams. The Broncos’ 200 medley has the eighth best time.
CLASS 1: Anna Glen of St. Michael the Archangel qualified for the Class 1 meet, which got underway Thursday. Glen, a senior, is entered in the 500 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke.
Grain Valley is represented by four divers: Piper Barnard, Abigail Castle, Hayden Meyer and Madison Rogers. Meyer placed fifth in last year’s state meet.