02/16/2020 — With only one podium finish, it was depth that earned the Lady Bulldogs their third-place finish among 60-plus teams at the UIL 5A Swimming and Diving Championship in Austin on Saturday at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.
The girls’ 200-yard free relay squad of Salina Damas, Abby Portwood, Madi Kohlmeyer and Noelle Marsh swam to a bronze medal in the freestyle sprint relay behind Austin Johnson and Montgomery.
It was the only time the Lady Bulldogs would step onto the podium until they collected their third-place trophy for the team competition.
What the girls did have was depth. The team put nine athletes into 14 of Saturday’s individual finals after Friday’s prelims.
MARSH LEADS THE WAY
Leading the way was Noelle Marsh who swam to fifth in both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle sprints to score 28 points in her individual events for the team.
Marsh qualified seventh for Saturday’s championship final (top eight) in the 50-yard free, then swam a strong race to finish fifth in 23.59 seconds in the finals.
The time is a new school record for the sprint specialist. It erases the mark set by Caitlin Clements, who swam a 23.63 in 2015. Clements, who went on to swim at Mizzou (University of Missouri), was part of the Lady Bulldogs state team win in 2017.
Marsh’s strong swimming continued in the relays. Not only was the junior part of the bronze-medal winning 200-yard free relay, she was also the anchor for the girls’ 400-yard free relay, which finished fifth. Joining her in that relay were freshman Sarah Culberson and seniors Olivia Gonder and Madi Kohlmeyer.
Gonder also made the championship finals in two individual events. The senior scored 25 points by placing sixth in the 200-yard individual medley and seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke.
In addition to leading off the 400-yard free relay, Gonder was the butterfly leg in the 200-yard medley relay. She was joined by freshman Sarah Culberson, junior Presley Heitzmann and Madi Kohlmeyer, who was on all three relays, to finish sixth after qualifying seventh in prelims.
Sarah Culberson and Jada Shorter also made strong individual contributions to the Lady Bulldog’s points total.
Culberson scored 18 points with wins in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard backstroke consolation finals to place ninth overall in each event.
Shorter finished ninth in the girls’ one-meter dive out of 24 divers. Shorter, who set a new school record at the district championships in January, contributed nine valuable points to the teams points in Austin.
Junior Gustavo Ott was the sole boy competing at the championship meet for the Bulldogs. He made the championship final in the 500-yard free and the consolation final in the 200-yard individual medley (IM).
Ott’s eight-place finish (500-yard free) and fourteenth-place in the 200-yard IM earned him 14 individual points and the Bulldogs a tie for 36th overall (out of 60-plus teams) in the boy’s team standings.
INJURY PREVENTED TURNER FROM COMPETING
This years’ District 21-5A co-Swimmer of the Meet and Region 6-5A Champion in the 200-yard free, Kailey Turner, was unable to compete due to an injury from a fall after the region championships on Feb. 1.
The junior would have surely made a big impact to the Lady Bulldogs’ point totals, as she qualified for the state championships in the 200-yard free and the 100-yard butterfly. She was also on the 200-yard medley and 400-yard free relay teams, which qualified at regions.
Turner, who made the trip to Austin to support and cheer on the team, is back doing some light swimming and is expected to return to full training in the spring with her club program.
RESULTS FROM SATURDAY’S FINALS
3rd — 200-yard Free Relay (Damas, Portwood, Marsh, Kohlmeyer)
5th — 400-yard Free Relay (Gonder, S. Culberson, Kohlmeyer, Marsh)
5th — 50-yard Free (Marsh)
5th — 100-yard Free (Marsh)
6th — 200-yard IM (Gonder)
6th — 200-yard Medley Relay (S. Culberson, Heitzmann, Gonder, Kohlmeyer)
7th — 100-yard Breast (Gonder)
8th — 500-yard Free (Ott)
9th — One-meter Dive (Shorter)
9th — 200-yard IM (S. Culberson)
9th — 100-yard Back (S. Culberson)
13th — 100-yard Breast (Heitzmann)
14th —200-yard IM (Ott)
16th — 500-yard Free (C. Culberson)
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