Poplar Bluff's Bradley advances to state finals in 50-freestyle

Poplar Bluff senior Paige Bradley waits to start a race in a meet Dec. 3, 2019 at the Black River Coliseum Aquatic Center in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
DAR FILE/Brian Rosener

ST. PETERS, Mo. — Paige Bradley advanced to the finals of the 50-yard freestyle at the MSHSAA Class 2 state swimming championships Friday.

The Poplar Bluff senior cut 0.38 of a second off her previous-best time, finishing eighth at 24.71 seconds.

“She had a good start and she said she held her breath the entire time,” Mules coach Beth Lewis-Muse said. “She knew what she had to do.”

Poplar Bluff’s three relays missed the cut but the 200-medley and 200-freestyle relays improved their times and finished better than their ranking.

Bradley swam the butterfly in the 200-medley relay as Audrey Cisne opened in the backstroke, Simone Anders followed with the breaststroke and Olivia Kirkman finished in the freestyle. The Mules, who came in with the 29th-fastest time, finished 24th while breaking 2 minutes for the first time this season at 1:58.72.

Gabrielle Fortner, Cisne, Kirkman and Bradley finished 22nd in the 200-freestyle relay after coming in ranked 27th. Their time of 1:45.94 missed the consolation final by just 1.82 seconds.

Fortner, a freshman, junior Morghyn McCain, sophomore Kacey Gregory and junior Audrey Rahlmann were 31st in the 400-freestyle relay at 4:07.28.

“They swam pretty well,” Lewis-Muse said.

Bradley will compete in the diving competition Saturday morning, as the ninth diver starting at 9 a.m., then prepare for the 50-freestyle final late in the afternoon.

By advancing to the championship final, she will earn the program’s 11th all-state medal over the past six years and the Mules will score a point at state for the eighth straight year.

Her cut of 0.38 of a second is “quite a bit” for the short down-and-back 50-yard race, Lewis-Muse said.

Bradley needed every bit of it as Liberty’s Kate Minette finished ninth by just 0.07 of a second. In all, 11 swimmers broke 25 seconds Friday night.

“Honestly, I think it was just heart,” Lewis-Muse said. “She just wanted it so bad, it just motivated her through it.”

Swimming in the final of four heats, Bradley was in lane 7 while Minette was on the other side of the pool in lane 2. Five of the eight swimmers in the heat finished in the top 10, all breaking 25 seconds. A false start disqualified a swimmer from the heat that had the fourth-fastest time this season.

Bradley’s time was just 0.18 of a second off the school record set by Cassidy Harris in 2015.

Harris, Poplar Bluff’s first state qualifier, broke 25 seconds in the 2015 prelims but finished 15th when there was only one classification.


In Class 4, Poplar Bluff's Gavyn Hays lost his third-round consolation match in the MSHSAA Class 4 tournament, missing an all-state medal by a single win.

After being pinned in his first match Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Hays held off Owen Heslin of Francis Howell, winning 3-2.

Hays pinned Liberty North senior Andrew Stephenson at 1:29 Friday after starting the second period in the bottom position and getting an early reversal.

That ended up being how Hays was beat in the next round against Liberty’s Callum Trester.

Trester, a senior, lost his quarterfinal match 5-1 before a pin at 2:36 to set up his match with Hays.

After a scoreless first period, Trester chose the bottom position to start the second and quickly got a reversal. He pinned Hays at the 1:49 mark, ending the junior’s season at 29-6.

In his second year wrestling, Hays placed third in the Class 4 District 1 tournament and at the SEMO Conference championships.

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