In swimming, qualifying for the state championships is a little different from most high school sports.
Rather than winning races to earn a spot at the championships, swimmers must surpass a set time.
With the championships a week away, Hickman and Rock Bridge will host the Last Chance Meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at Hickman to give swimmers a final opportunity to qualify. Hannibal and Columbia Independent School will also send girls to the meet.
Hickman’s Claire Piester, Judy Schenker and Mary Sheahen have qualified in every event, said John Hamilton, the Hickman and Rock Bridge coach. They can compete in two events of their choice at the state meet, and they will make their selections next week.
Chelsea Laun has qualified in every event but the 200-meter individual medley. She is a half second away from the qualifying time of 2 minutes, 23.39 seconds.
“At this point, we’ve got four girls from Hickman and we don’t have any from Rock Bridge but I do believe that will change,” Hamilton said.
Hickman will be well represented at the championships if four other swimmers close to qualifying can improve their times.
Shallan Garrett and Sarah Massey will try to qualify in the 500 freestyle. Massey is about three seconds behind the qualifying time of 5:42.79. Garrett, with a top time of 5:45.46, is closer. She qualified last year, but a faster time was set for this season.
“It just takes a lot of mentality,” Garrett said. “The main part of the 500 is you really have to keep up this mentality and keep up a high level of pain tolerance.”
Rachael Maerz and Hannah Hemmelgarn are close to qualifying in the 100 breaststroke. Hemmelgarn will need to be 1.5 seconds faster to reach the 1:14.19 qualifying time. At 1:14.8, Maerz said tighter turns could help her qualify.
“I have problems being too sluggish (near) the walls,” Maerz said. “I kind of give out the last finish when I have nothing left.”
Ioana Florescu and Meghan Kurzejeski have the best chance to qualify for Rock Bridge. Florescu, a sprinter, is about 1.5 seconds off the pace for the 50 freestyle, which has a qualifying time of 26.39.
Kurzejeski’s best time in the 500 freestyle is 5:47. She has been Rock Bridge’s distance leader but will need a strong push to qualify.
“You have to try,” Kurzejeski said. “I’m five seconds away, so I have to do my best.”
Hamilton said there is always the possibility someone will qualify unexpectedly.
“There’s always a lot of drama,” Hamilton said. “There are girls who we’re thinking may qualify who maybe won’t … and there may be some girls who come out of the blue. There always have been.”
Rock Bridge’s Ariane Warren and Erin Cirkl have a chance to qualify in 1-meter diving. They will need to put up a string of six great dives to get their scores higher than the 210 qualifying mark.
Both usually score between 160 and 170, but Hamilton said by scoring consistently on each dive it is possible for them to qualify.
Hickman and Rock Bridge will benefit from competing in their home pool for the second time. Hickman won and Rock Bridge was fourth at a five-team meet April 17, but officials will not keep team scores Saturday.
“It’s better that we’re at home,” Kurzejeski said. “It makes us more comfortable.”
Although the season has been a bit of a building year for both teams, Hamilton said he was pleased with his teams’ conditioning, consistency and technique.
“They have worked hard and their times are showing it,” Hamilton said. “If you see that consistency where they’re sitting on a good time, they’re probably due for a good drop (in time).”