The Marquette Mustangs made a statement after a long holiday break.
The girls swim team won the prestigious CoMO Invitational in Columbia. It marked back-to-back championships in the tournament for the Mustangs.
Marquette finished first in the 27-team meet with 309 points. Coming in second was Hickman with 232. Rock Bridge was third with 223. Liberty and Park Hill South tied for fourth with 150 points.
After a long holiday break, the Mustangs were anxious to hit the water.
“Absolutely. Between finals and the winter break, it’s a long three-plus weeks of no competition, and the girls have been anxious to race,” Marquette coach Joe Schoedel said.
It’s a big meet in which to return to action as well.
“This is arguably the most competitive meet of the year, aside from state, that we see many of the other teams from around the state,” Schoedel said. “The majority of the teams that attend CoMo aren’t from the St. Louis area, so this gives us an opportunity to see what some of the teams from Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia have. Four of the top five teams from last year’s state meet were there so I’d say it was state caliber.”
Rock Bridge was second in the state last winter with Marquette ranked third, followed by Hickman in fourth and Park Hill South in fifth.
“The only top team that was missing was Lafayette, so between strong teams, and some very strong swimmers from various other schools, it was certainly competitive,” Schoedel said.
Lafayette won the state swimming team title last winter.
There were roughly 125 swimmers in each event.
Going into the tourney, Schoedel was looking to see how his Mustangs would compete after the layoff.
“As always, we look at this meet as an opportunity to see where the girls are at individually, as well as how they can come together as a team,” Schoedel said. “We know we lost a lot of top speed from last season, and in order to win it has to be a team effort, scoring as many different girls as possible.”
The Mustangs raced away with the championship, and Schoedel was not surprised by how his squad performed.
“We did what we were capable of. Many of our girls swam well and put up good times,” Schoedel said. “Some were personal bests and some weren’t. I know the girls want more, and they know they will have to continue to get better for state. What is impressive is the girls’ drive to succeed.”
Marquette did not set any school records this time in the meet.
Schoedel did say the final margin of victory was a little deceiving.
“While we won by a substantial margin, Rock Bridge and Hickman used somewhat unconventional lineups and we know they will be better and competing for a top four spot at state,” Schoedel said.
The Mustangs did not win any event, but they swam well in several.
Marquette came in second in the 200 free relay in 1 minute, 41.86 seconds. Members of the relay were Amanda Yu, a sophomore; Eva Main, a junior; Taryn Zweifel, a junior; and Lexi Basler, a senior.
“Though this was our top performing event, I know the girls wanted more,” Schoedel said. “After disqualifying a relay last year, we were a little conservative. It showed us things we can work on, and the girls are excited that they are far from peaking.”
The Mustangs also placed second in the 400 free relay in 3:41.08. Members of this relay were Zweifel, freshman Haley Hume, junior Lauren Berning and Yu.
“This was a solid swim all around,” Schoedel said. “All the girls put up great splits and I was very happy with the overall time. The girls have been working hard in practice, and at the end of long day and a lot of racing, they were still able to put up very good times in the final event.”
Zweifel was third in 100 free in 55.07. It was a great swim, Schoedel said.
“That’s a personal best for her, which she’s been putting up in nearly every event all season,” Schoedel said. “She has really improved over the last couple of years and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do at state.”
Yu was fourth in 100 fly in 59.53.
“[It’s] Her best swim since state last year. Amanda is our lone returning state scorer from last season, so obviously we have high expectations for her, as I know she does for herself,” Schoedel said.
Marquette finished fourth in the 200 medley relay in 1:52.16. Swimming on the relay were Berning, Abigail Nebot, Main and Basler.
“This was a solid relay for us,” Schoedel said. “The girls put up good individual splits and a solid overall time.”
Other girls contributed as well, Schoedel said.
“We had some fantastic individual swims, like Abigail Nebot’s 100 breaststroke but, really, it was a team win,” Schoedel said. “We had no individual champs for the entire meet, but placed far more girls than any other team. Girls that aren’t in relays, but scored, like Jenny Flores, Sarah Rosson, Haley Hume, Haley Benting, Abby Bomball, Lexi McClard, Anna Mae Williams and Maddie Kelsey, are the unsung heroes that add a tremendous amount to our team’s depth.”
Repeating as champions was important to the Mustangs.
“They were asking me for weeks if I thought we had a chance of winning the meet, and I think they are finally starting to believe me when I tell them how good we can be when every person on the team does their part,” Schoedel said.
The Mustangs will swim in the Kirkwood Invitational, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 13. It’s another big meet featuring 12 teams.
“It features all the top St. Louis area teams, as well as Park Hill South,” Schoedel said. “It should be another huge test for the girls, especially after coming off a big win.”