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Waukee girls swimming captures fourth in state meet action

Andrew Brown
Dallas County News
Waukee's Sophia Hueser swims during the 100-yard Breaststroke in the Iowa State Swimming and diving championship meet at YMCA Swimming Pool Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa.

While the weather was cooling down outside, things were heating up in the waters of the Marshalltown YMCA on Saturday, Nov. 14. 

That was the site of day two of the Iowa high school girls state swimming and diving meet. The Waukee Warriors, who came into the meet as the top-ranked squad according to power rankings, ended up capturing the highest state meet finish in school history with a fourth-place finish out of the 28 team field. 

"Watching all the girls individually it was impressive to watch," began head coach Shelley Twigg. "We a little disappointed in falling short of our third-place goal but it was still amazing to see these girls tie for the best finish in state history."

Waukee's Jessi Wigham swims during the 200-yard freestyle in the Iowa State Swimming and diving championship meet at YMCA Swimming Pool Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa.

The Warriors ended up capturing 227 total team points throughout the two-day event and along the way, captured five school records. Waukee ended up with eight top-five finishes as well for the state meet. Taking part in four out of those five school-record performances included sophomore standout Jessi Wigham. After capturing a school (and state) record in the 500-freestyle event on Friday, Wigham followed that up with another individual event record on Saturday. That came in the 200-yard freestyle where she placed second out of the 16-swimmer field with a mark of 1:48.14. That followed up her prior school record which she set during regionals at Southeast Polk

"Jessi now has a lot of big strong goals for next year," said Twigg. "She swam great at state and she had such a strong season overall." 

She was followed up by two more Warrior swimmers who graced the top-10 as freshman Nora Kemp placed fourth with a time of 1:53.48 and Taylor Judas placed ninth with a time of 1:56.45. 

Waukee's Mallory Kell swims during the 200-yard individual medley in the Iowa State Swimming and diving championship meet at YMCA Swimming Pool Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa.

The relay events, which have never fallen out of the top-five all season, once again came through and did so with new school records as well. The 200-yard freestyle relay group of Payden Rafferty, Sophia Hueser, Kemp and Wigham clocked in a time of 1:36.37. That placed the group fourth overall at state behind Dowling Catholic, Ames and Iowa City who took the event crown. A similar outcome came for Waukee in the 400-freestyle relay with the foursome of Kemp, Mallory Kell, Judas and Wigham who placed second out of 31 teams with a time of 3:29.53. 

More on an individual note, Kell continued what has been another strong season by placing fourth in the 200-yard individual medley. Out of the 16-swimmer field, Kell's historic finish came with a time of 2:05.66 which not only captured a season-best time for her but a school record as well. She followed that up with a fourth-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly event with a new season-best time of 56.51 seconds and 15 points for her team. She was followed up in that event by Eve Wiltse with a time of 58.69 seconds (also a season-best mark). 

Waukee's Eve Wiltse swims during the 100-yard butterfly in the Iowa State Swimming and diving championship meet at YMCA Swimming Pool Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Kemp captured a new season-best time in the 100-yard freestyle to continue the top-10 finishes for Waukee. That came with a time of 52.92 seconds which also placed her fifth out of the 16-swimmer field. 

Judas followed Wigham in the 500-yard freestyle by placing eighth with a time of 5:13.69. Even though Rafferty didn't capture an individual top-10 time, she did finish 11th in two separate events including the 50-yard freestyle (24.62 seconds) and the 100-yard backstroke (58.31 seconds). Following that finish, the Warriors were squarely in third place at the halfway point. In fact, the Warriors as a team held on to third place through all but the final three events of the meet.

Waukee's Payden Rafferty swims during the 100-yard backstroke in the Iowa State Swimming and diving championship meet at YMCA Swimming Pool Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa.

There was also a trio of strong performances in the diving portion of the state meet. That included Kerilyn Schmidt in 19th, Mali McGregor in 23rd and Reese Snavely in 26th place. 

Overall it was quite the cap on yet another strong year for Waukee girls swimming. It's a program that began with just one state meet qualifier back in 2010 and one that wrapped up the 2020 season with a program-best 15 state qualifiers and a program-best finish. 

"It was fun to watch these girls break records together and do so well together," Twigg said. "We're excited for next year as well and the future is very bright for Waukee girls swimming. We have a lot of strong swimmers for next year and we have a lot of high goals to hit as well." 

Waukee's Camden Habgood swims during the 200-yard medley relay in the Iowa State Swimming and diving championship meet at YMCA Swimming Pool Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Waukee's Payden Rafferty dives to swim during the 50-yard freestyle relay in the Iowa State Swimming and diving championship meet at YMCA Swimming Pool Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa.
Waukee's Mallory Kell swims during the 200-yard individual medley in the Iowa State Swimming and diving championship meet at YMCA Swimming Pool Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Marshalltown, Iowa.