Returning state champion Chloe Miller will lead the way for the Carl Junction High School girls swim team this winter.
A senior standout who has signed with the University of South Dakota, Miller captured the Class 1 championship in the 50-yard freestyle at last year’s state meet.
In fact, Miller earned four medals at last year’s state meet, as she was fifth in the 100 freestyle and swam on two all-state relays, the 200 freestyle and the 400 free.
Miller was also part of four event wins at last year’s Central Ozark Conference Meet. She won both the 50 free and the 100 free while also swimming on CJ’s winning relays (200 free, 400 free).
Also back with prior starting experience are juniors Elyanna Dogotch and Avari Fifer.
Dogotch swam on the team’s relays that earned all-state recognition and won COC titles (200 freestyle, 400 free).
Seniors Kiley Brenneis, Jenna Besperat and Bella Laudermilk and sophomores Emma Graham and Lilian Schultz also return with varsity experience for the Bulldogs, who went 16-2 in duals and finished second at the conference meet last season.
With a solid group of returners, and with some promising newcomers, the expectations are set high in Carl Junction.
“I am honestly always excited for each season,” Carl Junction coach Stephanie Miller said. “After five years of pretty good results, I think I’m ready to just enjoy the process. After the first week of practice, I think the team is already socially clicking and that is a big part of the battle.”
Coach Miller added there’s a lot to like about this year’s group.
“The strengths of our team is knowing we have a history of putting up solid relays at the end of the season,” Coach Miller added. “We have returning swimmers Chloe and Elyanna who will continue to perform big for us. Regardless of our performance, we’ll have fun and that’s the biggest goal.”
Coach Miller expects eight new swimmers to contribute nicely. They are senior Audrey Fletcher, junior Madi Olds, sophomores Addie Eaker, Lana Ghoneim, Via Dennis and Adelaide Davidson and freshmen Elsa Dogotch and Jazzy Kalm.
With several newcomers to the varsity this winter, Coach Miller expects her team to make steady progress throughout the season.
“With half of my team new this year I would expect us to peak late in the season,” Coach Miller said. “I have a ton of athletic talent, but they need to learn how to translate that athleticism to the water. I have a ton of unknowns. I think this season will depend on the tenacity of my team.”
The Bulldogs lost a solid group of seniors to graduation, including state medalist Skyler Sundy, who placed fourth in the 100 backstroke and eighth in the 50 free at last year’s state championships.
“Our biggest challenge is just seeing how fast the new swimmers can learn the four strokes, turns, and starts and execute them in competition,” Coach Miller said. “Meanwhile, the seasoned swimmers need to get training. The coaches will definitely be multitasking this year. It will be fun and busy. Our success will depend on the girls believing they can do amazing. It’s basically up to them.”
Carl Junction will open the season on Nov. 28 at Webb City.