A year ago, the Jackson girls swimming team won a surprising, thrilling share of the Class 4A state championship.
How surprising? How thrilling?
“When we found ourselves atop the podium, that was as exciting and thrilling a journey as you can go through as a coach with a group of athletes,” Timberwolves coach Drew Whorley said. “It’s such an incredible experience to be part of that. It was just an all-time high last year. I’m still spun around from it.”
Compared to other Jackson teams over the years, “our girls were a little bit younger and a little more wide-eyed (going into the state meet),” said Whorley, who is beginning his 18th season as the team’s head coach. But despite their youth, and despite trailing on the scoreboard late in the meet, “they still had the wherewithal and the confidence to believe in themselves, and then to go win (some last) events to put themselves in a position to be at top of the podium.”
Now at the outset of a new season, Whorley is hopeful about his team’s chances in the coming months. Several top swimmers return from a year ago, which gives the T-wolves a solid foundation going forward. But in swimming, as any sport, there are always questions. Will Jackson remain healthy? And which young swimmers will blossom into dependable contributors?
If there is strength in numbers, the T-wolves should be in great shape — the team has close to 65 swimmers turning out. At this point, Whorley said, “we’re just trying to move through practice and figure out what we have.
“But this is an awesome situation to be in as a coach. These are not just talented kids, but they’re kids with a good work ethic … and I’m really excited for the ride.”
Leading the way for Jackson will be a pair of returning state champions, both now juniors. Nicole Limberg won the 100-yard breaststroke and was second in the 200 individual medley. Maddie Pressler won the 200 freestyle for the second straight year and was fifth in the 100 backstroke.
Both girls also swam on Jackson’s winning 400 freestyle relay and the runner-up 200 medley relay, as did now-sophomore Chloe Limargo, who was fourth in the 200 IM and ninth in the breaststroke.
Others the T-wolves will count on this season include freestylers Ashley Sawyer and Hannah Davis, both seniors, and sophomore Lexi Nims.
“We’re excited to get into the meet schedule and watch the kids at the top try to elevate some of the kids who are trying to get to the top,” Whorley said. “In the end I think we’ll find ourselves in the mix … but lots of things have to come together and have to go your way.”
Could Jackson chase another state title? “I think we have a shot,” he said, “but I also think we have to be better than we were last year. And I think there are five other teams with just as good a shot as us.”
Archbishop Murphy, meanwhile, returns every swimmer from last season’s second-place team at the Class 2A state meet (two divers graduated). The Wildcats boast two returning state champions in senior Danielle Booth, who won a state title in the 100 breaststroke, and senior Reilly Krueger, who placed first in diving.
Others who will contribute for Archbishop Murphy are senior Kaelee McCloskey, fourth at state in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly; sophomore Caroline Kowalchuk, 11th in the 200 IM, and freestyler Caitlin Mitchell.
Though Liberty breezed to the 2A team title a year ago and is the heavy favorite to repeat this season, “I’d love to get another second place at state,” said Archbishop Murphy head coach Erin Edmondson. “Top three, that’s our goal.”