Waukee girls swimming captures regional crown at Southeast Polk

Andrew Brown
Dallas County News

It's hard to find as dominating of a performance as the Waukee girls swimming team put on over the weekend. 

The Warriors traveled to Southeast Polk High School as they took on regional swimming and they swam away with a regional title. Following a sweep on the diving scene which sent three divers to state, the Warrior swimmers followed up nicely capturing first place in all 11 swimming events. The Warriors became the only team across all seven regionals to capture first in every event. 

"We are excited about how they swam today, they swam lights out today," said head coach Shelley Twigg. "I feel really good with all of their times heading into state." 

It's been quite the evolution of Waukee girls swimming which started with just one state qualifier in 2010 and will now enter the 2020 state meet with 15 total individuals. Overall it was certainly a meet worth remembering, especially for Waukee sophomore standout Jessica Wigham. Following her performance which resulted in yet another set of multiple first-place finishes, Wigham earned Regional Athlete of the Year. 

"It's amazing to see all the hard work pay off," said Wigham. "I couldn't have done it without the help of my amazing coaches and the support of all my teammates." 

It just seemed like destiny for Wigham to find her way to first place, especially in the 200-yard freestyle event. The sophomore not only bested the rest of the 16 swimmer field, she did so with a new school record time 1:49.0. Interestingly enough, the prior school record was captured by Wigham.

"It's really cool to see how I've evolved from last year to this year," began Wigham. "I'm doing better than I did at state and it's an amazing feeling and knowing that I broke a record is really cool." 

Overall, Wigham was one of three Warriors to capture a pair of first-place finishes in the meet. Her second top placement came in the 500-yard freestyle and was also accompanied by a school-record time. That time for Wigham was 4:50.55 and placed her first out of the 12 swimmer field.  

Showcasing a strong performance as well was fellow sophomore standout, Mallory Kell. She too captured a pair of first-place finishes, something that's happened ever since the very first meet of the year. Kell first found the podium in the 200-yard individual medley where she bested the 12 swimmer field with a time of 2:09.93, less than a second off of her season-best time. Just two events later, Kell found herself back atop the podium as she was crowned the 100-yard butterfly champion with a time of 58.85 seconds. 

Sophomore Mallory Kell swims during the regional meet on Saturday, Nov. 7 at Southeast Polk High School.

The third Warrior to capture two top finishes on the day included freshman standout Payden Rafferty. After putting up impressive performances all season, Rafferty broke out a season-best time in the 50-yard freestyle event (24.20 seconds) to capture first. 

"I was definitely impressed by Payden, her finish in the 50-yard freestyle was one of the most impressive on the day," began Twigg. "Her 100-yard backstroke was great plus she helped out our relay events today. She too put in a lot of work and she had a great day today." 

Rafferty's 100-yard backstroke performance was indeed impressive as the freshman clocked in a time of 58.08 seconds which gave her a new season-best time. 

Other individual first-place finishes for Waukee included fellow freshman Nora Kemp. In an 18-swimmer 100-yard freestyle field, Kemp placed first with a season-best time of 53.18 seconds. Kemp also swam right behind Wigham in the 200-yard freestyle with a second-place time of 1:54.65. The elder statesmen in senior Sophia Hueser also joined in on the first-place fun. Hueser toppled the 100-yard breaststroke field by clocking in a new season-best time of 1:07.61. Hueser also clocked in a third-place time in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 25.04 seconds. 

Taylor Judas swims in the 500-yard freestyle event during regional swimming on Saturday, Nov. 7 at Southeast Polk High School.

Other strong individual finishes came from Taylor Judas who clocked in season-best times in the 500-yard freestyle (5:09.56 - second) and third in the 200-yard freestyle (1:56.27). In total, all Waukee relay teams and individuals placed sixth or better in every event for the regional. 

"It was awesome to watch our own teammates race each other," began Twigg. "One of the things we work on a lot is getting off the blocks quick and our girls were side-by-side racing each other. Our girls do a great job of cheering on each other from the start all the way to the finish." 

For the relay events, all three for Waukee not only captured first but did so with season-best times. The 200-yard medley team of Rafferty, Kell, Camden Habgood and Hueser placed first with a time of 1:50.02 while the 200-yard freestyle foursome of Wigham, Kemp, Hueser and Rafferty posted a time of 1:38.07. As for the 400-yard freestyle relay group of Kemp, Kell, Judas and Wigham, they came together to clock in a top-time of  3:33.71. 

For their efforts, the Warriors now have top-five seed times in six different events at the state meet which will take place Nov. 13-14 at the Marshalltown YMCA.

Waukee girls swimming coaches cheer on the Warriors during the regional meet on Saturday, Nov. 7 at Southeast Polk High School.