The Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats girls swim team achieved history this season.
The Wildcats won the Missouri Class 1 Girls Swimming and Diving Championships. Westminster claimed its first team swimming title by finished with 257 points in the meet at the Rec-Plex in St. Peters.
Defending state champion Parkway West finished second with 225 points.
Wildcats coach Andrew Schonhoff enjoyed his second state championship this school year. He directed the Parkway Central Colts boys swim team to a Class 1 state title last November.
Schonhoff, who just has begun coach the Colts water polo team, deflected his role in leading two teams to state crowns.
“I wish I could say I figured out a new way to develop state championship caliber teams, but it really isn't about me at all.” Schonhoff said. “I work with talented athletes and assistant coaches at both schools, most of whom have been swimming or diving for a long time before getting to high school. It's been an incredible blessing and honor to be able to play a small part in the success they were able to experience in each respective season.”
He knew he had a good team when practice began last November. Schonhoff was optimistic.
“From the start we knew we were going to have a very talented team,” Schonhoff said. “There was a lot of new talent and speed on the team so the focus was on creating a team culture that embraced the newcomers along with our established core.”
Parkway West fielded another talented team. Schonhoff had a strategy how his girls could gain control of the meet.
“We knew we wouldn't be leading through most of the meet,” Schonhoff said. “Our strongest event was the 100 backstroke (event 10 of 12 total), as we had four point scorers in it. We knew we'd be moving up the point standings once we got to that event. We really did need a full team effort in order to win this meet.”
Freshman Sydney Schoeck wound up earning Swimmer of the Meet recognition for the Wildcats.
Schoeck captured the title in the 200-yard IM with a time of 2 minutes, 2.72 seconds. She had set a new Class 1 record in the prelims of the event on the first day of the meet with a time of 2:01.61.
Schoeck also won the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 55.06 seconds.
Her times in those events were both school records.
“Sydney is a talented swimmer that would have a chance at winning any of the individual events,” Schonhoff said. “But the 200 IM and 100 back are her most dominant events.”
Westminster picked up points in the first event. The Wildcats finished second in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1:49.24. Girls on the relay were Schoeck, sophomore Janna Mollenhoff, freshman Ella Wolf and freshman Edde Sue Doehring.
Freshman Hannah Renaud won the title in the 100-yard butterfly. He winning time was 56.82 seconds. The time set a school record.
Renaud just beat Parkway West junior Norah Rutkowski, whose time was 56.92.
“After prelims, Hannah was only a few hundredths off first place, so we knew it was going to be quite a race in finals,” Schonhoff said. “She was behind going into the last 25, but she put her head down and powered that last half a lap to take first place.”
In the 500-yard free, Renaud earned a second-place finish in the event with a time of 5:04.87.
“This was an incredibly gutsy performance, especially considering that it wasn't too far removed from her 500 and she had to swim in the 200-free relay in the very next event,” Schonhoff said.
Westminster wound up third in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:39.50. Girls on the relay were Mollenhoff, senior Addie Draper, Doehring and Renaud.
Westminster senior Sara Schloss scored a fourth-place finish in the diving championship with 334.10 points.
“Sara not only provided strong performances for our team all season long, but she was an important part of the leadership on our team,” Schonhoff said. “Diving was a strength for us all season and Sara was an integral part of that success.”
Westminster ended the meet with a third-place finish in the 400-free relay with a time of 3:36.68. Girls on the relay were Renard, junior Ellie Berkland, Wolf and Schoeck.
Schoenhoff liked how his relays performed in the meet.
“I went back and forth quite a bit as to whether it was going to make more sense to stack two relays or enter three balanced relays,” Schonhoff said. “Ultimately stacking three relays made the most sense for total team points and all our girls stepped up in order to get all our relays in the top three.
To guide the program to its first state champion left Schonhoff feeling good.
“As a coach, of course it's satisfying to watch your athletes experience success after all their hard work,” Schonhoff said. “But more important than the standing on the top of the podium at state is experiencing all the little stories that happen along the way.
"One example would be senior captain Lucy Christian. As a junior, her best 100 back time was around a 1:09. She dedicated herself to improving and finishing her senior year on a strong note. Her initial goal was to be able to swim at state. Once it became clear that she would make the top 32, we changed her goal to scoring points in the top 16 at state. She went a 1:03.77 in prelims, made it into the top 16, and scored a point for the team in finals.
“Obviously we won by more than one point, but her hard work, dedication, and leadership throughout the season was invaluable to the team’s success as a whole. It's stories like those that keep us coming back as coaches.”