Fantastic finish leads to Cape state swim title

The Cape Central 200 medley relay team of (from left) Grace Sanders, Lauren Lamar, Bella Dennis, and Ava Duncan celebrate following its victory in the MSHSAA Class 1 State Swim Finals at the St. Peters (mo.) Rec-Plex Friday.
photo provided

There were two things that veteran Cape Central girl’s swim coach Dayna Powell knew concerning the Tigers’ 200 medley relay prospects for a championship in Friday’s MSHSAA Class 1 State Finals at the St. Peters (Mo.) Rec-Plex:

1. Each of her four swimmers could improve on their performance from Thursday’s prelims, and

2. If the Tigers were going to win, they needed a magnificent effort from junior Grace Sanders in the anchor freestyle leg.

Both things occurred just as Powell thought and the end result was a first-place finish by Cape Central in a time of 1:50.91, which was 1.25 seconds faster than the group’s prelim swim.

“A year ago,” Powell explained, “those girls started believing that they could win the medley relay. Three of those girls were on the (winning) relay last year that won.”

Junior Ava Duncan (backstroke), sophomore Bella Dennis (breaststroke), and Sanders (freestyle) teamed with then-senior Allison McDonald (butterfly) to win the race a year ago.

Cape sophomore Lauren Lamar replaced the McDonald (now a freshman swimmer at the University of Evansville) this year and the group had championship potential, but a lot of things needed to occur to achieve that.

Following Thursday’s race, the Cape squad was second behind Parkway West, whose anchor leg (senior Lauren Beard) was arguably the fastest in the field.

“If Ava got out good,” Powell explained of her Friday strategy, “we felt like we had the stronger breaststroke and butterfly of all the teams.

“So Grace knew they’d be coming for her.”

And they were, particularly Beard.

Duncan dropped her time .14 from Thursday’s race, but was still in third place at the end of her leg.

A strong swim (.07 seconds faster than in the prelims) by Dennis overtook Parkway West entering the fly leg and Lamar dropped her time .12 seconds to give Sanders a 1.08 second lead with 50 yards to race.

“Yesterday,” Powell said of Sanders’ schedule, “she had four big events. Today she went in more focused on the tempo (of the relay) and being able to pick up the pace.”

In a distance (50 yards) where success is measured in hundredths of a second, Sanders dropped her time from the prelims 1.16 seconds, which was an astonishing performance. And she needed every bit of it to hold off Beard, who swam the second-fastest leg of the eight teams competing.

“She was coming for Grace,” Powell said.

The Tiger squad doesn’t have a senior in the group and is just 1.14 seconds off the MSHSAA Class 1 state record, so Powell said “they have their sights on that for next year.”

The Tigers finished 10th in the team standings (93 points), while Parkway West (171) took the team title.

Other area swimmers included:

• 200 medley relay - Notre Dame (Jane West, Delaney Langenstein, Lexi Jansen, Allie Bucheit), 16th, 1:59.02

• 200 free - Sanders, 16th, 2:07.84

• 50 free - Lamar, 16th, 25.87

• Diving - Bayley Thompson (Saxony Lutheran), 17th, 228.30 points

• 100 free - Duncan, 11th, 55.68; and Lamar, 14th, 55.93

• 100 back - Duncan, 8th, 1:00.58

• 100 breast - Dennis, 6th, 1:08.27

• 400 free relay - Cape (Sanders, Dennis, Duncan, Lamar), 9th, 3:48.02

Poplar Bluff, Jackson compete

Poplar Bluff senior Paige Bradley led the area contingent in the Class 2 prelims Friday with an 8th-place swim in the 50 free race.

Bradley will join Jackson sophomore Hadley Wyatt in the diving competition this morning, followed by racing in the swim finals in the afternoon.

Other area swimmers who competed in the Class 2 prelims included:

• 200 medley relay - Poplar Bluff (Audrey Cisne, Simone Anders, Bradley, Olivia Kirkman), 24th, 1:59.72; and Jackson (Cami Brazel, Courtney Huckabee, Madelyn Harris, Dawson Talley), 27th, 2:00.78

• 50 free - Bradley, 8th, 24.71

• 200 free relay - Poplar Bluff (Gabrielle Fortner, Cisne, Kirkman, Bradley), 22nd, 1:45.94

• 100 breast - Huckabee, 23rd, 1:11.85

• 400 free relay - Poplar Bluff (Fortner, Kacey Gregory, Morghyn McCain, Audrey Rahlman), 31st, 4:07.28

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