Poplar Bluff swimmers open season with meet win over Notre Dame, Saxony Lutheran

Poplar Bluff's Paige Bradley swims the butterfly leg in the 200-yard medley relay during a meet Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, at the Black River Coliseum Aquatic Center in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
DAR/Brian Rosener

POPLAR BLUFF — In their very first race of the season, the Poplar Bluff swim team got a consideration qualifying time for state, twice.

The Mules finished first and second with both 200-yard medley relays finishing under the 2-minutes, 18.29-second qualifying time. Audrey Cisne, Simone Anders, Paige Bradley and Olivia Kirkman won with a time of 2:06.12 while Kasey Gregory, Addison Kirkman, Madison Moore and Audrey Rahlmann followed a little over 10 seconds later while beating Notre Dame’s top relay by nearly 3 seconds.

Both of Poplar Bluff’s 200-freestyle relays also earned a consideration time, as did Bradley in winning the 50-yard freestyle.

“To be honest, it was not expected,” Bradley said. “I’m very excited for what the season will bring, especially with our times today, even our relays.”

The Mules won seven events and took the three-team meet at the Black River Coliseum Aquatic Center with 138 points followed by Notre Dame (115) and Saxony Lutheran (19).

Poplar Bluff’s home pool is notoriously slower but there were 10 personal-best times by the Mules, who travel Saturday to Ladue for an invitational.

“Saturday will either prove or disprove what we did today, which is also pretty exciting for us to see,” Bradley said.

Bradley’s 50-freestyle time of 26.08 seconds is already within a second of her top time last season at the state meet. The senior missed the automatic qualifying standard by just 0.59 of a second.

Bradley also won the 100 butterfly at 1:09.92, already half a second faster than her previous-best time.

“Paige is fired up,” Mules coach Beth Lewis-Muse said. “She’s got big goals this year, she’s extremely motivated.”

Anders, a junior, won the 100 breaststroke at 1:23.2, holding off Notre Dame’s Allie Buchheit by 1.22 seconds.

Sophomore Julia Smothers won the 500 freestyle in 6:48 while senior Jessica Rush was third.

Gabrielle Fortner, Poplar Bluff’s lone freshman, finished third in the 50 at 28.32 seconds and won the 100 freestyle swimming in Lane 1 with a time of 1:06.71. She beat Notre Dame’s Jane West by 3.32 seconds.

“That was pretty exciting,” Lewis-Muse said.

Fortner joined Cisne, Bradley and Olivia Kirkman on the 200-freestyle relay that won in 1:52.63. Anders, Rahlmann, Morghyn McCain and Bethany Leighty finished third with a consideration time of 1:59.04. Leighty, Cisne, Fortner and Rahlmann were second in the 400-freestyle relay followed by the Mules relay of Anders, Rush, McCain and Addison Kirkman.

“With the addition of Gabby on the team that’s going to kind of relieve a couple of girls in different spots if we’ve got to use them somewhere else,” Lewis-Muse said.

Cisne finished second in the backstroke as Saxony Lutheran’s Savannah Spencer touched the wall just 1.48 seconds quicker. Cisne’s time of 1:10.72 was her fastest to start a season, Lewis-Muse said, but to qualify for state again she will need to cut nearly 9 seconds.

“She’s a very intelligent swimmer,” Lewis-Muse said of Cisne. “She understands there’s no time to waste.”

Olivia Kirkman finished second in the 200 freestyle at 2:22.93 followed by Leighty in third place. Haven Phelps was third in the 200 IM while Rush placed fifth and Austynn Dover had the fourth-best time.

Gregory touched the wall in 1:09.86 in the 100 freestyle with the second-fastest time out of the first heat.

Salah McCormack had two personal-best times, dropping nearly 7 seconds in the 200 freestyle and nearly 9 seconds in the backstroke. Smothers was nearly 15 seconds faster in the backstroke while Avory Gibbs lowered her breaststroke time by 13 seconds and was 2.16 seconds faster in the 50 freestyle. Halle Hall was 2.51 seconds faster in the 50 while McCain was nearly 8 seconds faster in the backstroke.

Moore finished third in the butterfly, cutting 0.41 seconds off her previous-best time for 1:24.58.

“I’m really pleased where we’re at right now,” Lewis-Muse said. “It was exciting to watch.”

Spencer won the IM in 2:35.86 for Saxony and took the backstroke in 1:09.24.

Notre Dame's Lexi Jansen earned a consideration state cut in winning the 200 freestyle in 2:12.66.

The Bulldogs won the 400-freestyle relay with Jansen, Paige Barber, Emily Bruns and Jane West with a consideration time of 4:30.43. Lexi Jansen, Abby Jansen, Alessandra Rubi and West were second in the 200-freestyle relay with a consideration time of 1:57.61.

West was second in the IM and the 100 freestyle while Abby Jansen finished second in the 50 at 28.04 and the butterfly in 1:13.77. Bruns placed second in the 500 at 6:56. Lexi Jansen was third in the backstroke while Buchheit was second in the breaststroke.

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