ST. PETERS, Mo. – With a top-10 state finish on the line, the Blue Springs 400-yard freestyle relay team came through.
The Wildcats won the consolation championship in that final event of the finals Saturday afternoon by just more than one second over Francis Howell at the Class 2 Missouri State High School Girls Swimming and Diving Championships at the St. Peters Rec-Plex.
Blue Springs picked up 18 team points in the event to 14 for Howell and that made all the difference in the team standings, as the Wildcats finished with 95 points to come away with a 10th-place finish, seven points higher than the 11th-place Vikings (88).
“This is definitely the best state meet in terms of time drop and hitting their peak performance in the three years I’ve been here, so I’m just ecstatic with how everything’s gone,” Blue Springs coach Kevin Bigham said. “Everyone’s feeling good, everyone’s dropping, everyone’s having fun and everyone’s happy, so I’m happy. Life’s good.”
The Wildcats’ quartet of seniors Jenna Wright and Sydney Franklin, junior Annemarie Rehbein and freshman I’yana Foster finished the 400 free relay in a time of 3 minutes, 42.72 seconds, just ahead of Howell’s 3:43.82.
Blue Springs then had to wait anxiously on an inquiry before a disqualification went to Lee’s Summit and the Wildcats could breathe a sigh of relief.
“We were hopeful yesterday to get top eight, but today we just came out and tried to win our heat,” Rehbein said. “The goal was just to go as best as we did yesterday and get everyone a PR on their 100 time.”
The same Blue Springs quartet also picked up all-state (top eight) medals earlier in the day with a sixth-place finish in the 200 medley relay in a time of 1:50.66.
“We got two more names (Foster and Franklin) up on the all-state board at our school, so that was just really exciting,” Rehbein said. “We couldn’t be happier.”
Rehbein also had a day to remember individually with a second-place finish in the 100 breaststroke, an event she finished seventh in last year.
Rehbein’s time of 1:05.64 fell just short of Kirkwood’s Alyssa Dennis (1:05.52), but just ahead of Marquette junior Hailey Benting (1:05.71), who came into the event with the top seed.
“I knew that I had to go out with as fast of a 50 as I could and just try to maintain it,” said Rehbein, who also finished 14th in the 200 individual medley (2:15.33). “I knew after the last 50 that it was neck and neck between all three of us. I think it was just whoever was closest to the wall on the last stroke got it. I think it was pretty fair all the way through.”
In Saturday morning’s one-meter diving competition, Blue Springs also got a top-notch performance from senior Katie Garten, as she finished fourth with 375.35 points.
Garten improved all three years at the state meet, going from 12th as a sophomore to sixth last year, and now fourth.
“Going in, I was focused on having fun with my last meet ever. I did my best and it turned out pretty well,” said Garten, who was in 11th place after the semifinals. “They’ve been mostly the same dives, but I definitely felt like every year my technique has improved throughout the year. Two of my most difficult dives were not great last year, but I improved on them to score higher this year.”
In the swimming consolation finals, Wright took 14th in both the 200 freestyle (1:59.07) and 100 backstroke (1:00.75) and Foster moved up to 12th in the 100 freestyle (54.77) after qualifying in 16th place. Diver Shayla Aten was 12th (345.20) for the Wildcats.
Lee’s Summit North junior Annica Valmassei had the area’s highest diving score of 413.90 points to finish second behind two-time champion Ella McMahon of Staley.
Valmassei finished 18th as a freshman before a dramatic leap to fourth last year and runner-up this year.
“I was really, really excited because I worked really hard all season and wanted to do the best I could at state,” Valmassei said. “Going into state, I really wanted to beat Ella, but she is such a beautiful diver. I’m really happy with second, but I would have liked to have been a little closer to her.”
Valmassei’s effort helped Lee’s Summit North amass 70 points, which was good enough for a 14th-place finish.
The Broncos also got a fifth-place effort from freshman Anna Hess in the 100 butterfly and a seventh-place showing from their 200 medley relay team of Hess and juniors Olivia Neidt, Madison Goff and Morgan Andersen. Hess also took 11th in the backstroke (59.60).
Blue Springs South’s 400 freestyle relay team of Regi Hecker, Maelyn MacLean, Kennedy Hecker and Anna Zweerink finished just 14th (3:46.56). The same four took 15th in the 200 free relay (1:43.47). Jaguars diver Kaylee Lombardo took 15th (324.05) as the Jaguars scored 12 points to finish in 27th place.