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Eleven top-two finishes lead to victory for Waukee girls swimming over Johnston

Andrew Brown
Dallas County News
Eve Wiltse swimming in the meet against Johnston Tuesday, Sept. 8 at Summit Middle School in Johnston.

The Waukee girls swimming and diving team was back in action for their first true road test of the 2020 campaign as they took on Johnston on Tuesday, Sept. 8. 

With the help of 11 top-two finishes, the Warriors swam past the Dragons by a 105-81 final. Of those 11, five clocked in first-place finishing times including Mallory Kell in the 200 freestyle, Nora Kemp in the 500-yard freestyle, the 400-yard freestyle relay and a pair of first-place finishes from Jessi Wigham in both the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard freestyle. 

A few of the highlights for the Warriors on the night came from sophomore star Jessi Wigham. Waukee came into the meet already with seven state-qualifying times across the young 2020 season, but with the help of Wigham, the Warriors exited Johnston with two more. One of those state-qualifying times for Wigham came in the 100-yard freestyle where her time of 53.64 seconds launched her to be one of just six swimmers in the state to have already punched their state tickets in that event. In that event in particular, Wigham helped to showcase one of the strongest aspects for Waukee girls swimming.

"We have a tremendous amount of depth this year," began head coach Shelley Twigg. "Normally she's our 200 and 500 freestyle swimmer but we wanted to see some different things from her tonight. She anchors our 400 free relay so to get an open time like that was amazing."

From there Wigham only impressed her coaches, teammates and fans, even more, when she captured a state-qualifying time in the 100-yard backstroke. Her time of 59.13 seconds marked the third-fastest such time in the state as well as pacing the six-swimmer field she was up against. 

"I was very happy with her 100 backstroke time," said Twigg. "Her underwater was so awesome and afterward she was so happy about that time. Just the fact that she's excelling in multiple events is good for the girls and the team." 

The other first-place finishers on the night for Waukee included Nora Kemp in the 500-yard freestyle, Mallory Kell in the 200-yard freestyle and the group time in the 400 free relay. Kemp, who has a state-qualifying time in the 200-yard freestyle (1:56.36), showed off her versatility as well with her first-place time of 5:18.25. Despite not being the fastest out of the gate, Kemp was the fastest in all but one leg of the race to eventually capture the win against the six-swimmer field. That time fell just three seconds off of teammate Taylor Judas' state-qualifying time. 

Mallory Kell swims in the meet against Johnston on Tuesday, Sept. 8 from Summit Middle School.

Mallory Kell also landed a first-place finish after clocking in a time of 1:58.11 in the 200 freestyle. It was another showing of depth across multiple swimmers as that very time fell just one second off of the final state-qualifying time. As for the 400 freestyle relay event, it was the only relay event in which the Warriors took first place. With a time of 3:41.61, the foursome of Kemp, Judas, Kell and Wigham bested the six-team field. 

Rounding out the top-two finishes for the meet included Maia Bumgardner in the 200 freestyle (2:03.92), Payden Rafferty with a second-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle (25.78 seconds), Eve Wiltse, second in the 100-yard butterfly event (1:01.64), Judas with a second-place finish behind Wigham in the 100 freestyle (55.66 seconds) and Kell in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:10.91).

Next up for the Warriors, now 1-1 on the season, will be a home battle against Dowling Catholic on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at the Waukee YMCA. The first event will kick things off at 5 p.m. 

Waukee's Nora Kemp in the 200 individual medley against Johnston on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at Summit Middle School.