Webb City put together a historic and memorable season in 2022-23, as the Cardinals went 14-0 in duals, won the Central Ozark Conference Meet, took first place at the SWMO Championships and concluded the winter with a number of all-state performances at the state meet.
Entering the 2023-24 campaign, the Cardinals feature 16 student-athletes with prior varsity experience.
And that equals high expectations.
“We are extremely motivated to make this a great season,” Webb City coach Shawn Klosterman said. “Last year will be hard to beat after graduating some heavy hitters, but we think we still have all positions filled to have a great lineup. Our numbers will help us win dual meets, but our experience gives us a shot to repeat at the COC and maybe even the SWMO as champions.”
Seniors Avery Mitchell (sprint freestyle), Ally Ansley (sprint free), Bailey Artinger (200 free, breaststroke), Allie Eggleston (distance free), Novely Lamont (IM breaststroke), Kelli Tollefson (free, diving) and Talyn Lewis (distance free, backstroke), juniors Camryn Klosterman (IM, breaststroke), Trinity Custenborder (free), Alix Davis (free, backstroke) and Kyndall Weston (IM, breaststroke) and sophomores Norah Klosterman (distance free), Sophia Jimenez (free, backstroke), Madison Allen (free), Jai Potter (butterfly, IM) and Alivia Johnson (free) all return with prior experience.
Coach Klosterman expects his seniors and juniors to lead the way, in and out of the pool.
“We have great leaders in the water,” Klosterman said of the group. “Our upperclassmen have great experience and the kind of positivity that helps everyone to buy in.”
Newcomers who could contribute include juniors Natalie Maynard and Alexia Gilbert, sophomores Isabella Berziel, Hailey English, Alyssa Moreno, Jayli Reno and Victoria Rodenas and freshmen Emerson Broaddus, Lorelai Fisher and Kaedyn Lewis.
Webb City must overcome the loss of six seniors, including four who earned all-state recognition (Sophia Whitesell, Skylar Powell, Olivia Honey, Hally Philpot).
“A big concern is that since we lost so many big contributors, we don’t know yet who will make up our A relays,” Klosterman said. “The girls will be challenging each other to earn those spots. That makes it fun, but also high stress. Our relays are aiming to make the finals at state again, and it will be interesting to see who rises to that. We also are still searching to fill all four spots for diving. Diving is always a strength for us, but it is hard to find athletes willing to give it an honest try. It is a tough sport, but also incredibly vital to our team’s success.”
Coach Klosterman noted the keys to a successful season are simple.
“A positive mindset,” he said. “Buying into the belief that this group can do great things no matter who the competition is.”
At last year’s Class 1 state championships, Webb City’s 400 freestyle relay team (Powell, Mitchell, Davis, Whitesell) finished eighth, the 200 medley relay (Norah Klosterman, Camryn Klosterman, Whitesell and Mitchell) was ninth and the 200 freestyle relay (Powell, Davis, Honey, Mitchell) was 15th. Davis finished 14th in the 100 freestyle.
With last year’s success, and with a large, talented group back in the pool this winter, the Cardinals have the goals set high.
And as coach Klosterman noted, the Cardinals plan on having lots of fun along the way, too.
“No matter what, we know it will be a fun season,” said Klosterman, who is in his 25th season in charge of the program. “These girls always come together and have a great team experience. We will be doing a lot of experimenting in the early season to figure out where everyone can contribute the most, and then it is a matter of committing to getting into racing shape. We have high expectations, and we can’t wait to get the meets started.”
Webb City will host a meet with Carl Junction, Joplin and Monett on Nov. 28 at the Buck Miner Swim Center.
Also of note, the Cardinals will host the Red Bird Invitational on Dec. 9 and the COC Championships on Jan. 23.