Mackenzie Buss and Savanna Townsend made verbal commitments recently to compete for NCAA Division I college programs.
The seniors are now aiming to make a splash at their final WIAA state swimming and diving championships this weekend.
Besides going after their third individual state titles at the UW Natatorium in Madison, Buss and Townsend are trying to reach some lofty marks.
Buss, of Shawano/Bonduel, won the 100-yard backstroke in Division 1 last year with a state-record time of 55.25 seconds, which helped her qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials.
“I definitely want to improve my time and go for 54 (seconds),” she said about this year’s goal.
After finishing 79th out of 162 swimmers in the 100-meter backstroke at the Olympic trials in Omaha, Neb., in June, Buss said the experience opened her eyes to what she needed to do her senior year and ultimately prepare for college, where she’ll swim for the University of Louisville.
“It made me want to push harder and work harder,” said Buss, who qualified for state in four events to push her career total to 14.
“Watching the athletes and what they do to prepare for a race was really beneficial to me. The eating, the sleeping, the cooling down, the warming up, it was all such a learning experience for me. They’re so focused going into it and that’s the way I feel right now.”
While Buss is shooting for a time, Sturgeon Bay/Sevastopol’s Townsend can leave an impression by the number of times she has medaled at state.
A 16-time state qualifier in Division 2, Townsend can conclude her career with 15 medals. Her only finish outside the top six was last year when her 200-yard medley relay team took eighth.
Townsend, who will swim at Iowa State, has won individual titles in the 50 free (2009) and the 100 free (2010) in addition to being the anchor leg of the 200 free relay that won a title in 2009 with a D2 record time. She also won a team title her freshman year with Sturgeon Bay/Sevastopol.
After placing second in the 100 butterfly as a junior, Townsend could be poised to add to her state title collection. She is seeded first in the 100 butterfly, second in the 50 free and first for the 200 free relay she is a part of.
“It’s pretty exciting to be seeded that high, but it’s always hard to keep those spots because everyone is fighting for the same thing,” Townsend told the Door County Advocate. “I’m going into it like any other meet. I’ll try my best, that’s all I can do.”
In terms of teams, Ashwaubenon will be fielding one of the deepest in the D2 field. It’s also one of the youngest with only one senior among the eight swimmers that will represent the Jaguars in nine events, including all three relays.
After going from 22nd place in 2010 to seventh in 2011, the Jaguars are hoping to move into the top five this season.
“We have the opportunity, but it’s going to really come down to that mental preparation of the girls and holding it together to know that we can do it,” said Ashwaubenon coach Jennifer Steffel, whose squad is ranked sixth in D2.
Coming off its third straight sectional title, Steffel said having individuals like junior Allison Teske (200 medley and 100 breastroke) and sophomore Claire O’Connell (100 butterfly) with a chance to place in the top three would greatly help the team’s standing.
But the fourth-year coach pointed to having sophomores Kira Pless and Becca Teske both qualify in the 500 free as the biggest sign her program is heading in the right direction.
“We have some really amazing athletes that are ranked really high in their events, but getting double qualifiers in an event at state is how you start to break into the top five,” Steffel said. “Doing well with those relays, to get all three in, is big as well so we get those double points.”
In Division 1, Pulaski is ranked seventh and powered by sophomore Corrin VanLanen, who is a four-event qualifier and the 100 butterfly top seed.