Hickman, Rock Bridge swimmers and divers prepare for state championship meet

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 | 9:41 p.m. CST; updated 10:24 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 16, 2011

COLUMBIA — The youngest swimmers and divers on the Hickman and Rock Bridge swim teams might not get the chance to display their talent among the state's best in future years.

With the Columbia School Board looking into the possibility of dropping swimming from the budget next school year, this weekend could mark the last time that Hickman and Rock Bridge swimmers and divers get an opportunity to compete in the MSHSAA State Championship meet.

Neither team had any seniors qualify but three juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen will compete Friday and Saturday in St. Peters.

Freshman Kortney Betz is the only Rock Bridge swimmer heading to the meet.

"My emotions are really just jumping through the roof right now. I'm really not sure what to expect," Betz said.

Betz, who qualified in the 100 and 200 freestyle, said those emotions include more than feeling pressure to represent her school well.

"I'm really excited because I really want to see what the competition is like, and I really want to improve my times," Betz said. "I've been feeling really good in the water lately at practice."

Hickman sophomore Nicole Mellosays she knows how Betz is feeling. Mello competed at the state meet as a freshman last season and is headed back this season.

"I definitely learned from state last year," Mello said. "As a freshman, you don't really know what to expect when you go in there. It's a huge change. It's really intense and the atmosphere is just way different."

Mello will be competing in the 500 freestyle and two relay events this weekend. She said she is working on her stroke and her technique this week.

"It's always the little things that count," Mello said.

Mello, along with juniors Jenahlyn Felten and Lauren Sicht, and sophomore Lark LaBrunerie, will swim in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Felten will also be competing in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.

Hickman and Rock Bridge coach John Hamilton said he does not know what to expect from his swimmers this weekend because of the practice time theylost duringthe snowstorm "at the peak of our heavy training."

"At the last chance meet (last Saturday), these girls pretty much held onto their best times," Hamilton said.

Hickman will also have two divers, junior Rebekah Laupp and freshman Alexa Zimmerman, competing this weekend.

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