The high school girls swimming season ended over a month ago, well before the COVID-19 coronavirus closed down the sports world.
Annemarie Rehbein of Blue Springs is counting her lucky stars for that.
“I’m just grateful that I still have one more year and that we got to finish off the season,” Rehbein said in a phone interview. “I can’t imagine how devastating it would have been for the whole team to have worked four months and then not get the opportunity to compete one last time.”
It certainly would have been a shame if Rehbein’s junior season ended short of a trip to the state meet. She wouldn’t have made all-state in two events and top 16 in two others.
But Rehbein did get to accomplish all that, and for that she’s The Examiner’s Girls Swimmer/Diver of the Year.
Rehbein capped her season with a second-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke in the Class 2 state meet at the St. Peters Rec-Plex outside St. Louis. Rehbein finished in a personal-best 1 minute, 5.64 seconds, just shy of the 1:05.52 turned in by Kirkwood’s Alyssa Dennis. Swimming a new PR thrilled her; coming up short of a gold medal did not.
“I was upset at the time but now it’s just fuel to the fire,” said Rehbein, who took seventh in the race as a sophomore. “I have next season to come back and know what it feels like and hopefully not let it happen again.”
Rehbein, who also placed 14th in the 200 individual medley, joined Jenna Wright, Sydney Franklin and I’yana Foster to take sixth in the 200 medley relay for another all-state performance. The same foursome also won the 400 freestyle relay consolation final, securing a 10th-place team finish for the Wildcats.
“Going into the season, if someone would have asked how do you think you’ll do, I would have never guessed that I would not only be second in the 100 breast, but that both of our relays would make top 16 and I would make top 16 in both individuals as well,” Rehbein said. “We improved a lot as a team.”
Rehbein was having a successful season even before state. In the Suburban Big Six meet, she passed four swimmers over the final two legs to win the 200 individual medley and also struck gold in the 100 breaststroke and 400 freestyle relay.
“Annemarie deserves all the success that she has,” Blue Springs swimming coach Kevin Bigham said at the Big Six meet. “She works her butt off all offseason. She swims for a really intense club team and she’s always working on getting better and achieving her goals. So we’re just really happy for all she’s achieved.”
While her high school season went off without a hitch, Rehbein’s club season with Empire Swim Club has been put on hold by the coronavirus. The club got in three weeks of training, but its first big meet was canceled. And since Empire works out in school district pools, there’s no place to train for the time being.
That’s not a problem now, Rehbein said. Last week was spring break in Blue Springs, and she spent it with her family in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Ensured that there were signs of coronavirus cases in the area before they left March 16, they decided to still make the trip.
“There’s people here, but it’s very quiet,” Rehbehin said from Cabo. “We’ve been a couple times and it’s significantly less (crowded) than it was before.”
Rehbein realizes she’s in for more down time this week and possibly longer. But in time she expects to be back in the pool competing for Empire and preparing for her senior season.
“She continues to improve her training and racing habits, so the sky's the limit for Annemarie," Bigham said.