Girls’ swimming makes splash in road to second straight state title


Skyler Froese

Two state titles on both the boys’ and girls’ side in the past year has been impressive enough for RBHS swimming, but the Lady Bruins most recent state championship this past weekend cemented the program as a definite power in the state. The win came at the St. Peter’s Rec Plex on Feb. 22, earning 260 points and defeating second place finishers, Lafayette, by 24 points.
The team had two swimmers earn individual state titles coming from senior Kelley Tackett in the 200 yard freestyle and from Nicole Williams in the 100 yard breaststroke. Seven other RBHS swimmers finished within the top eight. The 200 yard Medley relay won in a time of 1:46.70 and 400 yard freestyle relay finished in third place. Despite Williams’s cap ripping shortly before the race’s start, she and her teammate sophomore Ellie Zweifel went 1-2 in the 100 yard breaststroke.
“Ellie is always there pushing me in practice and she’s come so far since last year as well. She even achieved a national level cut that I know she’s been trying to get for a long time.” Williams said. “I’m really happy we were both able to celebrate, and there’s no one I’d rather stand by on the podium”
The team has pushed and pushed in practice, according to both head coach Zach Mertens and his swimmers. Mertens also attributes the team’s success to the versatility of his swimmers, many of which swam events that they had never before swam at state. The strategy of versatility and presence in every event worked well for the Lady Bruins this time through.
For freshman Piper Osman, while she did put her heart into her swims, she also reveled in the atmosphere of the meet. For nearly the entirety of the finals, she and the swimmers from RBHS, HHS and BHS were on their feet, screaming to urge on their teammates.
“Team Como was sitting right in between Park Hill South and Glendale. Glendale was last year’s runner up and Park Hill South is a team that has been striving for the state championship trophy and has many fast swimmers amongst them which made the cheering a little intense with all three teams…” Osman said. “The meet was overall very upbeat with lots of smiling and cheering but along with that came a lot of nerves at finals.”
The cheering helped to give the Bruins some of the extra juice it needed to claim the state title. At multiple points in the meet the Lady Bruins fell behind in points due to stiff competition, including four state record breaking swims. Lafayette had the lead going into the last three events, but RBHS’ outstanding finishes in the 11th event, the 100 yard breaststroke, helped clinch the team title.
“At various points in the meet Rock Bridge’s score was overtaken by Lafayette or Park Hill South (sometimes sizably so).” Mertens said. “Sometimes the swimmers get caught up in the point total and times and forget to take the meet one swim at a time.”
For some swimmers a single swim was their fiercest competition. Tackett has won the 200 yard freestyle three times now, but going into the race she faced her long time rival and defending 200 yard freestyle champion, Macie Beairsto of Glendale. The race was close from the start, but Tackett pulled out a victory by .69 of a second. Tackett wasn’t the only swimmer looking for another high finish. Sophomore Bettie Logan finished two places higher than last year in the 100 yard backstroke, as did Williams in her respective race.
The Lady Bruins faced a season with unprecedented challenges. Early in the season four RBHS swimmers were suspended for breaking MSHSAA regulations, and then in late Jan. their former head coach, Laura Wacker, was fired for inflammatory remarks made during practice. Though this brought adversity and even pain to the team, they emerged stronger than ever.
“The state title proved that no one and nothing can stop what we were bringing to the table this season.” Osman said. “This particular state title I think means more than most because of the fight we had to endure to achieve it.”