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Jackson swimming’s Ava Walters breaks own conference record

Jackson girls swimming junior Ava Walters became a three-time SEMO Conference Champion in the 100-yard backstroke on Feb. 6 at the SEMO Aquatic Center. Photos by Nick McNeal

Last week on Tuesday, Jackson junior Ava Walters continued to prove why she’s one of the top swimmers in the Show-Me State when she took home two gold medals at the annual SEMO Conference Meet at the SEMO Aquatic Center.

While doing so, Walters broke her own 100-yard backstroke record of 58.97 seconds — that she set as a freshman — with a new meet record of 58.91 to become a three-time conference champion in the event.

“[Breaking it] felt really good because I’ve had it since freshman year, and so it felt really good to break it as a junior,” Ava laughed. “I’ve progressed in the event well — I’ve gotten better at my walls and turns, which are making me faster.”

Walters was the only swimmer to finish the 100-yard backstroke in under a minute as Cape Central senior Addison Ringwald and freshman Kennedy Ringwald placed second and third, respectively, with times of one minutes, 1.88 seconds and 1:05.30.

Ava won her other SEMO Conference title in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:14.69, which was 5.53 seconds away from breaking the meet record. This time posted by Walters was nearly eight second ahead of the race’s runner-up in Cape Central senior Marianne Dean (2:22.65).

Outside of Walters, freshman Lynlee LaValle also won a SEMO Conference Championship for Jackson as she took home the gold medal in the 500-yard freestyle, posting a time of 5:26.51. Like Walters, LaValle also beat a Tiger in Dean to win her event, and she took home silver in the 100-yard breaststroke at 1:17.52.

Even though Walters and LaValle topped each Tiger they faced individually, Cape Central still came away with a fourth-straight SEMO Conference Championship with 559 points. The Indians finished in third place at 317, while Poplar Bluff took second with a total of 417 points.

“As a team, we did amazing and that really makes me happy that I can just cheer on my teammates because we all did good as a group,” Walters said.

Arguably the key to why the Tigers won yet another conference title was by having the meet’s MVP in junior Sydney Ringwald, who is already verbally committed to swim at Division-I Florida Gulf Coast.

“This was our senior’s last show — this is a big year for us,” Ringwald said. “I think a four-peat for them is really exciting as a team, too.”

In all four of the events she competed in, Sydney broke a meet record to take home four conference gold medals, starting with the 50-yard freestyle, which she completed in 24.25 seconds.

The second and final individual race Ringwald made history in was the 100-yard freestyle, where she recorded a time of 52.56 seconds. This broke the 17-year record of 52.9 seconds set by Hannah Kinder in 2007.

“Last year was kind of rough, so this year coming into it and being in a good mood, it was really nice to see the results actually coming through,” Ringwald said. “You definitely get tired [competing in all these events] — after the first one my legs hurt. I think keeping a positive attitude and knowing, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ is what helps me get through the whole thing.”

Cape Central junior Sydney Ringwald two individual meet records and was on two record-setting relay teams to win for SEMO Conference Championships last week.

Sydney Ringwald then helped led Cape Central’s 200-yard freestyle relay team win the race as the squad posted a time of 1:40.76. Outside of Sydney Ringwald, Kennedy Ringwald, senior Emilie Dickson and junior Isabella Pattengill made up the team that won the event by almost 13 seconds.

Lastly, Sydney was on the Tigers 400-yard freestyle relay that set a new meet record time of 3:44.91 to win her fourth and final SEMO Conference Championship of the meet. Kennedy Ringwald was also on this team, along with Addison Ringwald and Marianne Dean.

Jackson took second in the race behind Cape with a time of 4:02.47 to take silver and was made up by Ava Walters, Lynlee LaValle, senior Emma Morris and sophomore Audrey Tuschhoff. These four also made up the second-place 200-yard medley relay team that finished the race at 1:59.31.

Individually, Morris took home two more medals outside of relay competition by placing second in the 100-yard butterfly (1:05.41) and third in the 200 medley (2:32.67). Tuschhoff also medaled twice along with her two relay medals by taking fourth in both the 100 (1:01.07) and 200 freestyle (2:13.19).

Jackson had another relay team take home conference medals as the 200-yard freestyle sqaud took third place with a time of 2:04.76, which is made up of senior Lauren Slack and sophomores Ally Hayes, Clara Beggs and Emma Dean.

Along with medaling in the relay, Slack took fifth place in the 500 freestyle behind LaValle’s first-place finish for the Indians in her final conference meet, posting a time of 6:14.93.

As for Hayes, she earned medals in not one but two events outside of the 200 freestyle relay by taking fourth overall in the 100 butterfly (1:11.77) and lastly fifth in the 50 freestyle (29.14).

This was the last meet of the regular season for Jackson as the Indians now look ahead to the Class 2 State Meet, where they will be competing in multiple events.

Individually, Walters will be competing in both the 100 backstroke and 200 medley, while LaValle will do so in the 200 and 500 freestyle. Walters and LaValle will also compete at state as members of the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay along with Morris and Tuschhoff.

Ava, who recently went on a visit to a Division-I school to potentially swim collegiately, became a two-time Class 2 All-State medalist in the 100 backstroke by placing seventh in the event at 58.53 last winter. Now as an upperclassmen this season, Walters continues to lead Jackson’s swim team by putting her dedication on display each practice.

“[Doing well at the state meet] takes a lot of training throughout the season, wanting to get better at each practice and showing up at each practice,” Ava explained. “Going back to state feels really good because I know I’ve got a good group of girls behind me. I know I have the support to do better in everything I do.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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