A strong youth movement has the Rock Bridge swimming and diving team taking shape.
Thirteen of the 17 Bruins who competed in their most recent meet were freshmen.
Four key freshmen are leading the charge for the team on its quest for postseason action. Freshmen Mary Wetz, Lauren Cooper, Katie Silvey and Holly Payne are the lone Bruins who have qualified for state competition.
At a recent dual meet, Payne and Silvey were the latest Bruins to qualify, in the 500 freestyle. Previously, Wetz qualified for the 100 backstroke, and Cooper in the 100 breaststroke.
Going into the season, the girls said they did not foresee the success they have experienced.
“My expectations were just to have fun and, hopefully, drop time,” Sylvie said. “It’s always good to do well, but more (fun) to relax and have fun.”
Soon after the season began, it was clear how high the young swimmers could take Rock Bridge. The Bruins have improved their finishes at each meet, including a third-place finish at the Roses Invitational on April 2.
After the meets with Hickman and Glendale, coach John Hamilton said he was pleased with the Bruins’ improvement.
“Rock Bridge is improving hand-over-fist,” he said. “They’re coming on strong.”
Hickman has also had strong performances from its freshmen. Marie Pope has qualified for state competition in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
Pope’s times, along with state qualifying finishes by Mary Sheahen, Claire Piester and Julie Schenker, have helped Hickman finish all of its meets in third or better. The Kewpies’ best finish came when they won the Roses Invitational, defeating 18 teams.
Hamilton, who also coaches Hickman, said he knew what the girls could accomplish because of their experience swimming on club teams. The girls also compete on the Columbia Swim Club team.
“Although they’re freshman, they may have had two or three years of swimming, or even more,” Hamilton said. “So, they’re not new to the sport. Just new to high school."
Payne said the difference between high school and club competition is mostly the swimmers’ attitudes.
“It’s all about the team here,” Payne said. “In club, it’s more individual. Here, you swim for the team, and it’s more of a team atmosphere.”
Pope said the older girls have helped ease the freshmen’s transition to high school.
Hamilton said he strives to make sure there are no distinctions between the classes and the schools.
“A lot of the dynamics of our program, they’re still new to that,” Hamilton said. “I also think our team has a good rapport with each other. Seniors to freshman, I don’t think there’s a really class distinction.”
Even with the freshmen’s success, Hamilton said his goals for the teams have not changed.
“Hopefully some of them will get to experience the state team,” Hamilton said. “And that’s all. I don’t put anything on them. Some will do very well at state. Some of them will get there and swim, and that’s as far as they’ll go with it this year.”