by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge girls' swimmer Caitlyn Wilson won the 500 freestyle and helped the Skyhawk 200 free relay team take first at Southridge's home dual meet with Jesuit on Thursday. Wilson won three events on the day.

Southridge sophomore Christina Young and freshman Caitlyn Wilson are relatively new to the girls’ high school swimming scene, but the Skyhawk underclassmen are already well-versed in the Metro League power structure.

Young and Wilson know who the top dog is. So, when each came out triumphant in two individual races and one relay event at Southridge’s dual meet with the reigning king of the league, they were ecstatic.

“My goal was just to get first in both my events, and not get second to Jesuit,” said Young. “I achieved it. (Jesuit’s girls) are really fast. I was just proud of myself that I was able to beat them.”

As a freshman, Young finished third at districts in the 100 butterfly and said her goal this year is to break the 56-second mark, which would put her in range of the school record.

“I’m just hoping I have enough power to break the record,” said Young. “That’s my only goal for right now. I felt good today. My 200 IM (first place 2:19) was the best time I’ve had, and my 100 butterfly (first place, 1:01) was my best yet, too. I just wanted to have a lot of force and energy in my strokes.”

Wilson won both the 200 (1:55) and 500 free (5:16), two of the tougher, longer races offered to compete and win in. The sophomore said she had to work hard from start to finish in order to edge Jesuit’s Emily Cook in the 200. The 500 was more of a runaway rout, with Wilson getting out to a big lead early in the race and holding it for the duration of the long-winded event. Had the rest of the field caught up to Wilson, the sophomore said she would’ve gone out a little faster. Yet, Wilson knew she had the extra time to get the win.

“I went out strong and just tried to keep that pace,” said Wilson. “You have to be really strong physically and mentally in the 500 because you have to keep your mindset up that you can keep going that speed and not die off. The whole 500, I was just keeping my energy up.”

Five minutes after the gassing 500, Wilson and fellow 500 senior swimmer Jessica Sparks regrouped physically and helped the 200 freestyle relay squad (1:46) beat Jesuit by a couple of seconds.

Young and sophomore Allie Engstrom were also part of the 200 relay that prior to the race heard Southridge trailed by double digits going into the event.

“We were really tired, but we knew we really wanted to beat Jesuit,” said Sparks, who placed second in the 500, and third in the 200 IM. “We wanted to try our best, and we were just shocked by how far we got ahead. Everyone put their heart, effort, and training into it. I think everyone helped out.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge girls' swimmer Christina Young won the 200 IM and helped the Skyhawks' 200 free relay beat Jesuit on Thursday.

A fun-loving foursome that likes to tease each other good-naturedly before races to lighten the mood, and bring smiles to one another’s faces, Southridge’s relay team has already formed a close bond.

“Everyone works really well together on this relay,” added Engstrom. “We just all really wanted it, so it ended up really good. To compete with Jesuit, it shows how strong of a team we are, and how much we support each other. It’s just really nice to have all these people here supporting you.”

Wilson said when she swam for her club team during the fall, her times weren’t where she wanted them to be.

However, when she joined the Skyhawks for the high school season, Wilson felt more motivated to do well for her team and used Southridge’s joy to kindle her speed in the water.

“We like to have tons of fun,” added Sparks. “We love to make jokes and criticize each other, but just for fun and have a good time. All the team stuff we do...that’s what I love to do. It’s a really fun environment because everyone supports each other.”

Jesuit sophomore Erin Perry bagged a banner day for the reigning 6A state champion Crusader girls, winning the 50 free in 26.01 and the 100 free in 58.28. Perry also anchored the 400 IM relay that took first and 200 free relay that took second behind Southridge.

“In the 50, I wanted to take it out and bring it back strong,” said Perry. “I wanted to practice racing for the real meet at districts and state. For my 100, I wanted to take it out smooth and then build it back coming back hard.”

Perry likes her 100 free races smooth and controlled, but strong in the first 50 meters. The final 50 is all out, with whatever she has left in the tank.

The 50-free, in contrast, is a violent, high-gear, full-speed sprint that goes by in the blink of an eye. Perry said the race usually boils down to who can make the fewest mistakes, and kick off the turn quickest.

“It’s kind of a perfectionist race,” said Perry. “You have to be so meticulous. You have to be aware of yourself and how you are in the water. Today, it felt OK, but I know I can do better.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit's Megan Harper won the 100 yard backstroke against Southridge to help the Crusaders beat their Metro League rival on Thursday.

Cook competed in her first high school meet for Jesuit on Thursday, and helped the Crusaders beat Southridge, 93-77, with second places in the 200 free and 100 butterfly. The freshman was also a key part of the 400 IM relay that started the afternoon off with a firstplace finish.

“I was a little bit nervous, but I thought I did well,” said Cook. “I just wanted to stay loose and relaxed during my races.”

Sophomore Aimee Piercy was second in the 200 IM and third in the 100 butterfly, but said she was more proud of how her team performed and came together as one. Swimming is mainly an individual sport, Piercy noted, but the Jesuit girls have bonded and have each other’s backs.

“We lift each other up when we’re feeling down,” said Piercy. “That just really helps to bring each other up. I think we can definitely win districts again and challenge for state. We work hard and we work well as a team. We just focus on what we can do to get better, and that’s all we can ask for.”

Megan Harper won the 100 backstroke and Kenna Holt took first in the 100 breaststroke.

“I had a really team backing me up, which is really great about Jesuit,” added Perry. “If you don’t do well personally, you have three teammates to back you up. We have good leaders helping us out and get ting us situated. Last year, we were kind of the underdogs, but we won state because it was more of a team thing. We all said we were going to do it for each other.”

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