When the Greensburg girls swim team began preparing for this past winter season months before its first competition, the Lady Aqua Pirates knew the sky was the limit.
The team entered the season with a mix of youth and experience, untapped potential, and one undeniable advantage over last year’s group – it was a full year older and better.
“We’ve come in so much stronger than last year,” said sophomore Bri Stagge. “We know what we needed to do to have a good season. We practiced so much. You can see how much our practice and hard work paid off.”
The hard work and talent harvested the fastest girls swim team in Greensburg history. The Lady Pirates swam their best at the end of the season. They broke five school records in the Columbus North Sectionals on Feb. 8, and came within tenths of seconds of three other records.
Head coach Josh Hawkins looked back on the accomplishments of a young squad with so much potential.
“The girls swam spectacular,” said Hawkins after the sectionals. “The meet couldn’t have gone any better! Our girls had set some lofty goals early in the season, and nearly every one of them was met or very nearly met.”
Stagge was involved in four school records Feb. 8. She started the day by breaking the school record in the 200 freestyle by more than one second and dropping four seconds off her best time by going 2:02.9, placing her fifth. Stagge then smashed her own 500 FR record by 11 seconds, lowering her old mark of 5:41 down to 5:29 for fourth place. That time would have been enough to win two other Sectionals in the state.
Junior Molly Oesterling, sophomore Abby Bausback and Stagge teamed up with freshman Emily Eberhardt to smash the 200 freestyle relay record in 1:45.48, formerly 1:47.70. Oesterling, Bausback, and Bri Stagge welcomed Bri’s sister, senior Morgan Stagge, to swim with them and break the 400 FR record that was recently broken earlier this season. The quartet went 3:57.22 to beat the old mark of 3:58.41.
The record-setting team in the 400-yard freestyle relay tallied a disqualification in the finals. However, Hawkins said the IHSAA is reviewing the call and the review will affect team scores.
Greensburg competed against Connersville Jan. 15 on Senior Night. The visiting Spartans presented the toughest competition of the season up to that point, but the Pirates welcomed the challenge.
“It was a lot of competition, but it got us to elevate our performance,” said senior Megan McDole.
Oesterling said the tough competition brought out the best in her.
“I may have PR’ed,” she said, “but I made the other girl swim a PR. Even though I PR’ed, I challenged her, too.”
In the final competition of her season in sectionals, Oesterling dropped more than a half second in the 50 FR and placed fifth with an outstanding time of 25.48. She then swam the 100 free and lowered her PR from 58.5 to 56.65, placing fourth.
Bausback’s fourth-place finish in the 100 back, despite a two-second improvement, was less than one second from a school mark.
“She was disappointed that she didn’t break the school record (1:04.3),” said Hawkins, “but it’s hard to be upset with a 2-second PR.”
Eberhardt is close to setting a new Greensburg precedent in the 100-yard breaststroke. Bausback noted that Eberhardt is capable of reaching it.
“She can get that record,” she said. “As a freshman, that’s really good.”
Eberhardt’s enthusiasm of sharing in the records spread to her teammates.
“You could tell how pumped up she was,” said Bri Stagge of Eberhardt.
McDole, a four-year swimmer for Greensburg who also swims in the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard breaststroke, compared the current team to how it was her freshman year.
“We weren’t even close to records,” she said. “The whole atmosphere changed. There is a strategy for everything. We’re so much more improved. They have improved a ton. I looked at the board today and I could see every record being broken. I completely have all confidence in them.”
Another difference McDole took delight in sharing with the coaching staff was her trust and confidence in her teammates. She credited Josh and his wife, Amy, with coaching up the swimmers while setting a positive tone.
“Amy and Josh have so much confidence in us,” said McDole. She noted that the coaches have made the team feel like a family, a concept that Bausback said extended to the team.
“You pull for your teammates,” said Bausback.
Hawkins envisions even more success in the immediate future and beyond, as more swimmers in the younger ranks come through the pipeline.
“I’m so proud of what these girls accomplished,” he said. “To say the least, I believe the future is bright for not only these girls, but also for our program. The lesson learned in hard work resulting in success will carry over into every part of these girls’ lives from here on out, and for the future of our team, the majority of our points scored today were from underclassmen. I can’t wait to see what these girls go on to achieve!”
Hawkins added that the record-setting season is a true testament that hard work pays off.
“Anyone that knows anything about swimming will look at the high level at which these girls competed, and know without a shadow of a doubt that they put some serious work into swimming fast,” he said. “After Saturday’s meet they also erased any doubt as to them collectively being the fastest girls swim team in Greensburg school history.”
With just two seasons of high school swimming behind her, Stagge summed it up best.
“It’s such an honor to be up on that record board,” she said.
Contact Nick Gonnella at (812) 663-3111, x7003.