New year, new coach

Girls varsity swimming begins season

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New year, new coach

Senior Madeline Ryterski shows excellent form while swimming the backstroke.

Senior Madeline Ryterski shows excellent form while swimming the backstroke.

Kaitie Heath and Rachel Callier

Senior Madeline Ryterski shows excellent form while swimming the backstroke.

Kaitie Heath and Rachel Callier

Kaitie Heath and Rachel Callier

Senior Madeline Ryterski shows excellent form while swimming the backstroke.

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As winter break approaches and the second semester of the school year creeps forward, most South High students cannot wait for some rest and relaxation. But, for the girls swim and dive team, training for their season is just getting started.

This year the girls are facing two big changes–a new coach and the loss of a key player: 2018 graduate Kirsten Votava. Additionally, the dive team only has one member this year and is facing a critical challenge–a broken diving board.

This season there are seven seniors returning to the team. Two of these swimmers, Brooke Muckerman and Paige Gifford, qualified for state last year.

“I mean obviously we have a gap where we need speed because Votava left, like in our relays,” said senior Paige Gifford. “but, she only swam for South for two years and we filled her spot before, so with fresh talent like [freshman] Logan Knolhoff, we will figure it out. We have a lot of solid younger girls who will learn.”

Even Knolhoff said she is hoping the team will come up with ways to fill the gap.

“I think we need to have more people step up to take on a leadership role since she was such a strong swimmer,” Knolhoff said. “I think we’ll do well because we have a lot of strong people who do well in different events.”

Parkway South Swim and Dive team has a new coach this year–Blakeleigh Mathes. After swimming competitively for 16 years and competing collegiately at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky, Mathes has been coaching for the past five years, including having experience at Ladue.

Mathes said she hopes to bring out the team’s strengths and work on the weaknesses.

“Our strength lies within our veteran leadership and is bolstered by young talent. We have a solid amount of depth,” Mathes said. ”Our weakness is we lack divers. We only have one diver and would love to recruit some more!”

This year, South has only one diver–Zoey Owens. Owens, a senior, is not coached by Mathes, but is still a part of the team.

“Being the only diver is actually pretty stressful. I always have to be at the top of my game, or else it feels like I am letting people down, especially my teammates,” Owens said.

On top of being the only diver on South’s team, Owens has to deal with another problem– a broken diving board. Due to this, Owens now travels to West High for practices.

“The broken board has been pretty difficult for me,” Owens said. “I am definitely not happy about it because it has broken several times before and it doesn’t seem like it is going to be fixed anytime soon.”

Even so early in the season, the girls swim and dive team already has its mind focused on the most important meets–Cape Girardeau, the Kirkwood Invite, Conference, and State.

“To me, the most important [meet] is State. I want to practice by swimming every day and completing the sets [Coach] gives me,” Knolhoff said. “Personally, my strengths are sprinting, freestyle, and backstroke. My weaknesses are distance and breast stroke.”

So far this year, the team has placed fifth at Marquette Relays, lost in a dual meet against Kirkwood, and was victorious at a meet against Eureka, winning 99-86.

Coach Mathes she has a plan to help the team improve and reach their highest potential.

I plan on using race specific training and swimming sets designed to get the girls used to swimming tired,” Mathes said. “This helps the girls swim smarter, longer, and harder.”

On top of the effort that the team is putting in, the girls have a strong team bond that both the players and coach values.

“We are with each other a lot more than most teams,” Gifford said. “We have two to three hour practices before school, after school, and on the weekends. We spend so much time together at long meets, so we know each other really well.”

Even though Mathes is coaching for her first year at Parkway South, she already sees the player to player bonds and sportsmanship that the team exudes.

They act like a family,” Mathes said. “We have great senior leaders who really lead the way. They make my job much easier.”

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