by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley girls swimming and diving team is heading into its fourth season, and just like the boys, it will be small in numbers.
The Eagles will compete with a combined 14 swimmers and divers heading into the 2021-22 season. And after having one state qualifier last season, they hope to have more this time around.
“We have a smaller team this year, we lost seven seniors from last year’s team,” Grain Valley girls swim coach Kara Liddle said. “That kind of hurt us this year. But with the girls we do have, I think we can have a really good season.”
Madison Rogers leads the way for the Eagles as the lone state qualifier from last season. She actually made the Missouri State High School Girls Swimming and Diving Championships twice and as a junior she is hoping to crack the top eight at state this year after finishing 11th a year ago.
In the offseason, she has been working on improving with her club diving team called the Titans.
“I have been pretty satisfied with my high school career so far,” Rogers said. “Last year was honestly a struggle but I have worked really hard, and I am ready to improve this year.”
Since her freshman season Rogers said she has improved mentally the most.
“A lot of things I struggled with before I was because I was scared,” she said. “Now I am more focused and that has been the biggest difference.
“I definitely need to work on my twisters, and I have also worked on my doubles because that’s what judges focus on the most. I think finishing in the top eight at state is a reasonable goal as long as I keep pushing hard in practice.”
Joining Rogers will be two freshmen who will be diving for the first time and senior Lauren White will also be a first-time diver. She swam for Grain Valley during her first three years on the team and will be trying diving out in 2021-22.
“She’s a cheerleader, so she has that gymnastics background, and she really seems to be enjoying it,” Liddle said of White.
Leading the way for the swimming side of the team are seniors Ella Boyle and Alyssa Hanenkratt.
Boyle said she swims every event but the 100-meter backstroke and Hanenkratt swims long-distance races like the 200 and 500-meter freestyle races. Freshman Riley Wade is a sprinter who could make some noise this year, as well.
“My goal is to make it to state in any event that I can,” Boyle said. “Our relays were really close to making state last year and we had some girls miss cuts by hundredths of a second.”
Liddle said the team will have its first swim meet Wednesday and the regular season will cap with the Suburban White Conference Championships.
“I think they are going to do really well in conference,” Liddle said of the seniors. “We are going to have one of the smaller teams in the conference because we don’t have very many people. We have our first meet on Wednesday, so I am excited to see how well we can do.”
Grain Valley seniors: Ella Boyle, left and Alyssa Hanenkratt look to lead the Grain Valley girls swimming team for the 2021-2022 season. Photo credit: Michael Smith