The hardware is definitely nice. And that state championship trophy did look pretty good sitting in Glendale’s packed gym Monday during an assembly honoring the Falcons’ state title-winning girls swim team.
But more than that, said the team’s top swimmer, Glendale’s back-to-back championships have hopefully opened eyes in its own community and beyond.
“I hope so,” said Glendale senior Nikki Sisson. “Swimming is a sport that has never been viewed as a spectator sport. We don’t get a lot of people at our meets. But hopefully this shows that we do have great athletes, and we deserve just as much support as any other team.”
The attention is certainly warranted. Glendale last year became the first southwest Missouri team to win a state swimming championship. This year the Falcons repeated despite entering the meet as the underdogs.
Coach Steve Boyce, a math teacher when he isn’t at the pool, had the Falcons figured for 174 points going into state — 73 points behind the team (Lafayette) projected to win.
But Sisson, headed to Truman State next year to continue her swimming career, powered the Falcons with a victory in the 100-yard freestyle, and a second-place finish (by one-one hundredth of a second) in the 50 free.
Sisson also anchored Glendale’s third-place 200 free relay and was the last swimmer in the pool on the Falcons’ state championship-clinching win in the 400 free relay.
Glendale scored 210 points to edge Marquette by eight points for the title. The team race wasn’t decided until the Falcons won the last race of the meet, the 400 free relay.
But the standout was far from alone. Of the 10 Glendale swimmers who competed at state, nine will be back next year.
That group includes sophomore Macie Beairsto, who was second in the 200 freestyle and fifth in the 100 butterfly; and junior Madeline Nelson, who was third in the 100 free and fifth in the 100 breaststroke.
Sophomores Hannah Leif and Kaylee Sisson and freshman Zayn Newman also helped out, swimming on Glendale’s relay teams. Kaylee is Nikki’s younger sister.
Juniors Lauren Beatty, Emma Chadwell and Tori Harmon, and freshman Cali Hackworth also competed at state.
The depth is a luxury Boyce didn’t have when he took over the Glendale program four years ago.
“When I started, we had 11 girls. We had 30 this year,” Boyce said. “The interest is higher, and the competitiveness is higher. It’s a lot of fun in practice every day as a coach to see how it goes.”
Boyce called the title a “victory for Springfield” — an area long considered an afterthought in a sport long dominated by St. Louis-area schools, and later Kansas City programs.
“This is the only sport where everybody competes at state in the same class,” Boyce explained. “And we’re about right in the middle of all the schools who have swimming as far as enrollment. We fall about 63rd out of 106 schools, so it’s a pretty cool deal.”