By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There’s a certain pride factor that comes with being on the relay team for the Stillwater High School girls swim team. So many members have gone on to win state championships that second place almost seems like a letdown.
So when all three relay teams lost to Fort Gibson earlier in the year, Stillwater coach Kurt Goebel knew something had to be done.
“We’ve had some really good swim teams in the past and they’ve been able to keep that momentum going,” Goebel said. “There’s an expectation in our program for them to be able to come up on top as often as we can. So when that happened, that was a wake-up call for some of those girls.”
That message was heard loud and clear by six members of the Lady Pioneer swim team, as they avenged those early losses to Fort Gibson by winning state championships in the 200-meter medley and 400-meter freestyle relays Saturday in Jenks.
The Lady Pioneers edged Fort Gibson by 48 hundreths of a second in the 200-meter medley, finishing with a time of 1:59.13. They also won the 400-meter freestyle by more than a second, with a time of 3:55.47.
“Going into the finals, we just had some girls on those relays that weren’t going to let this just slide by,” Goebel said. “They were ready to get out there and show up to the meet. These girls have put a lot of time into swimming over the years, so when you’re able to send some of your seniors out on top, it’s just really special.”
Stillwater may have come away with a pair of state championships by the time it was all said and done, but what isn’t instantly visable are the hundreds of hours put into getting to that point.
Swimmers like Sydney Goad, Alex Thomas, Kelsey Haseley and Kayla Dunn spent hours together in the pool perfecting their strokes and finding the right combination for the 400-meter freestyle relay.
“We kind of have to work with what we have because we switch people every year and almost every meet,” Goad said. “We switch people around and we work on a lot of individual things rather than all together. It is an individual sport, but for that relay you have to work together.”
They may train separately in the pool, but it’s the close bond outside the pool that helped pave the way to the two state championships.
“Over the four years I’ve been swimming we have switched people, but we’re all so that it doesn’t really matter who is on the team,” Goad said. “We’re all pretty much in tune with each other. In the 400, we have come pretty close and know our weakness and strengths. I think that’s what helped us.”
The Lady Pioneers won’t have seniors Goad or Haseley next season, but don’t expect Stillwater’s relay teams to completely fall apart. Other swimmers like freshman Lauren Gattis and sophomore Brooke Njaa — who were part of the 200-meter medley state championship team — will be asked to fill that void left by the two graduating seniors.
“There’s just this expectation when you’re on one of the relay teams,” Goebel said. “We do a lot of traditional type things in the relays and one of the thing that both our boys and girls teams pride themselves on is being able to perform well in the 4x100. Hopefully we can keep that going and have people step up and be competitive.”
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