BOWLING GREEN – Swimmers from Marshall County and Christian Fellowship rose to the occasion – individually, collectively and even collaboratively – in Saturday’s Hilltopper Invitational meet at Western Kenucky University’s Bill Powell Natatorium.
In addition to representing their individual schools, a mix of Marshal swimmers plus CFS’s Nick Snodgrass competed in the 200 freestyle relay, finishing eighth.
Marshall County finished in a tie for 14th place in boys’ team points and was ninth in girls’ competition.
Individual and relay team performances were topped by the quartet of Jessie Anderson, Sidney Jackson, Erika Darnell and Sarah Telle, who took fourth in the girls 200 free relay.
Telle also had a fifth-place finish in the girls 100 free and teamed with Whitney Barrett, Darnell and Anderson for a fifth in the 200 medley relay.
In the collaboration, CFS swimmer Snodgrass teamed with Paul Hudson, Grant Park and Austin Gordon of MCHS.
“The mixed relay came together on a whim during practice,” Marshals coach Kevin Stephens said. “Christian Fellowship trains with us on a daily basis, and have not had enough members to put together a boys relay since I have been involved with the team.”
With the Hilltopper event an invitational exhibition with a greater focus on individual events, Stephens said, “I thought it would be a good time to ask if it was possible for them to form a mixed relay just for fun.”
The request was well received, Stephens said.
“The directors of this meet, the WKU swim team, wanted swimmers to participate and be involved as much as possible,” he said, “so they allowed us to enter as an exhibition team.”
That meant the boys would not receive points for their finish, but that was of no relevance to Stephens.
“I am grateful they gave us and Christian Fellowship swimmer Nick Snodgrass this opportunity,” he said. “It was exciting to watch.”
The four boys swam the event in one minute, 45.63 seconds.
CFS coach Paulette Buckingham said the event was “a great success” for Snodgrass, the only member of the four-swimmer Eagles to earn an invitation to the event.
“He broke the CFS record in both the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, placing 14th out of 65 swimmers and 13th out of 43 respectively,” Buckingham said.
The event was “one of those rare meets where every swimmer posted a personal best time,” Stephens said of the eight MCHS swimmers who participated.
“In terms of results, we did better than expected, considering we were up against some of the best teams in the state like Bowling Green High School,” Stephens said.
“This is one of my favorite meets of the year to attend. All swimmers must meet qualifying time standards in order to be entered in the meet, so that adds a level of prestige to the meet that you don’t get with a typical high school meet.
“It also allows swimmers the opportunity to swim in one of the nicer indoor facilities in the state.”
The Lady Marshal swimmers have outshined the boys in recent performances, Stephens said, but the boys surprised him with their performances at Bowling Green.
“We have a very young group of boys on the team, and the three that qualifiied included Paul Hudson, a freshmant, as well as Grant Park and Austin Gordon, both sophomores,” Stephens said.
“They all beat the goal times they had set for themselves for season goals,” the coach said. “I guess they need to reevaluate their capabilities and set new goals for the second half of the season.”
The girls, dominated by upperclass veterans, turned in the kind of performances Stephens has come to expect from them.
Seniors Sarah Telle and Erika Darnell, juniors Jessie Anderson and Sidney Jackson and sophomore Whitney Barrett comprise a group that, Stephens said, “continues to impress me more at every meet.”
Anderson, Darnell and Telle return from the team that qualified for last year’s state meet with their performance in the 400 free relay and Stephens was keen on focusing on that event this year.
“However, I have come to realize that this group of girls will be just as successful in any of the three relays,” he said. “I am hoping that all three of the school relay records fall.”
n In the Dec. 5 Tilghman Invitational at Paducah Athletic Club, Marshall County and Christian Fellowship each brought home first-place showings.
The Marshall quartet of Jessie Anderson, Sidney Jackson, Erika Darnell and Sarah Telle won the girls’ 200-yard freestyle relay, while Nick Snodgrass of CFS took first place in the boys’ 100-yard backstroke.
The relay team won with a time of one minute, 55.40 seconds. Snodgrass stopped the timer at 1:05.65, taking first place in a field of 11 swimmers.
Snodgrass, the CFS team captain, broke the school record previously held by Jacob Buckingham in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 25.93, placing fifth in a field of 24.
In overall team standings, Marshall County placed third out of nine teams, registering third-place finishes among boys’ and girls’ team standings in the nine-team field.
Christian Fellowship tied with host Paducah Tilghman for fifth place in boys’ team standings and was eighth overall.
Murray was first overall and in boys’ standings. Lone Oak took first place in girls’ team points and was second overall.
Marshall County, Calloway County and Heath rounded out the top five overall teams.
Heath, Marshall County and Calloway County trailed Murray in boys’ team results, with the Tilghman-Christian Fellowship tie for fifth place.
In girls’ team points, Murray, Marshall County, St. Mary and Calloway County filled out the top five behind Lone Oak.