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Preview: Warriors making waves as swim program takes off

Bill Haglund/DCN The Waukee girls’ swim team returns a wealth of talent from last year’s squad, which finished 11th at the state meet in Marshalltown. Front row (from left): Jenny Brown, Kate McLaughlin, Rachel Brown, Jilian Loos, Emma Gerdis, Lindey Carlson, Camryn Somers, Ashley Dean. Back row: Tori Bussanmas, Raechel Kinney, Maddie Gehrke, Haley Stitz, Ellie Blazenko, Annie Whitehead, Maddie McCormick, Emma Georgeff.Buy Photo
Bill Haglund/DCN The Waukee girls’ swim team returns a wealth of talent from last year’s squad, which finished 11th at the state meet in Marshalltown. Front row (from left): Jenny Brown, Kate McLaughlin, Rachel Brown, Jilian Loos, Emma Gerdis, Lindey Carlson, Camryn Somers, Ashley Dean. Back row: Tori Bussanmas, Raechel Kinney, Maddie Gehrke, Haley Stitz, Ellie Blazenko, Annie Whitehead, Maddie McCormick, Emma Georgeff.

The Waukee girls’ swim is on the upswing.

In just its third season as an independent program in 2012, the Warriors scored in eight events at the state tournament and finished 11th.

And with nearly every one back this season, Shelley Twigg is confident that another successful year is on the horizon.

“We have all our state qualifiers returning this year, plus the addition of some outstanding freshmen who have been swimming hard in the offseason,” said Twigg, who has coached the team since its inception. “We have versatile swimmers who can challenge almost anyone in multiple events, and our freshman class is also very versatile, having great swims in any stroke, sprint or distance event.”

The Warriors’ returning experience is considerable. Junior Maddie Gehrke won the 50-yard freestyle title last season, Waukee’s first state championship in a swimming event, and placed third in the 100 butterfly while helping the 200 medley relay (13th) and 400 freestyle relay (seventh) teams to strong finishes.

Jenny Brown recorded her third straight top-5 finish in the 500 freestyle, finished 11th in the 200 freestyle and swam on both the 200 and 400 freestyle teams that scored for the team.

Ellie Blazenko qualified in the 200 individual medley and swam on the 400 freestyle team, and Camryn Somers was 16th in the 100 freestyle while swimming on all three of the team’s relays.

Emma Georgeff and Tori Bussanmas joined Gehrke and Somers on the 200 medley relay, while Somers, Maddie McCormick, Emma Gerdis and Brown swam on the 200 freestyle. Somers, Brown, Blazenko and Gehrke were seventh in the 400 freestyle.

Sophomores Lindey Carlson and Ashley Dean will also be key contributors, as will a freshman class of six, including Olivia Crouse and Zoe Bussanmas. The added depth has been a consistent aspect of the team’s growth each season.

“We are lucky in the fact that each year when we lose someone there have been freshmen or other girls stepping up and taking their place,” Twigg said. “We haven’t had to worry about ‘rebuilding.’ The spots fill as the freshmen come in.”

The Warriors hope to improve on last season’s sixth-place finish in the Central Iowa Conference meet, as well as avenge a very disappointing 86-84 loss to Eastern Division foe Ankeny.

“Ankeny is going to just keep getting better and we are definitely looking forward to facing them and having a much better showing,” Twigg said. “We are hoping to come out on top in our division this year.”

With the added depth, that is a distinct possibility.

“As usual, we focus on commitment and hard work but also having fun together,” she added. “It has been an honor coaching these girls and watching them get better and better each season.”

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