THOSE MEDALING OTTERS - All four members of the Rend Lake Aquatic Youth Otters swim team that competed at the Zone ChampionshIps, Aug. 6-8, in Lincoln, Neb., received a medal for finishing in the top eight among swimmers from 10 states. Katie Cully of Marion took first in the 50 meter freestyle and set a new Ozark Local Swim Committee record time in the 100M freestyle. FROM LEFT are; Andrew Roberts (Mt. Vernon), Isabel Heitmeyer (Mt. Vernon), Cully and Cheyenna Rhine (Benton). CLICK HERE for a larger image.
INA, Ill. – The RLAY Otters swim team at Rend Lake College has completed a highly successful summer long-course season with top finishes at its last three meets.
Led by the 9-10 group of boys and girls, including overall high point champion Katie Cully (Marion), the Otters – with only seven swimmers – finished ninth out of 18 teams at the Ozark Championships, July 30 - Aug. 1, at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Cully won five of her seven races – 50 meter backstroke, 50 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 100 back, and 100 free.
Other outstanding performances included championship finishes by Andrew Roberts (Mt. Vernon) in the 50 meter butterfly, and Isabel Heitmeyer (Mt. Vernon) in the 200 meter individual medley and the 50 meter breaststroke. Cheyenna Rhine (Benton) and Aaron Holt (Mt. Vernon) advanced to the A-Finals in most events after finishing in the top five. Justin Zuck, a graduating senior from Sesser, advanced to the B-Finals while Rebekah Holt (Mt. Vernon) just missed advancing to the consolation finals.
“This meet is kind of compared to the state finals in other sports,” said RLAY Head Coach Laura Johnston. “Logistically, it makes sense for us to compete as part of USA Swimming’s Ozark Local Swim Committee, which is our region, the St. Louis region, rather than competing in USA Illinois where meets are saturated up north. Katie was absolutely amazing. For her to win the high point award at both the Ozarks and Summer League in the same weekend, to endure that number of races with her quality of racing was absolutely amazing.”
The RLAY Otters again showed their merit by winning high point trophies in every age group at the Southern Illinois Swim League (SISL) championships held on July 31 at the DuQuoin City Pool.
“At this meet, our swimmers represented Ozark LSC rather than Rend Lake,” Johnston explained.
High-point champions were Hadden Lybarger (Salem) for the 6-year-olds, Cully and Heitmeyer as co-winners for ages 9-10, Roberts for 9-10 boys, Rhine for 11-12 girls, Kole Crally (Mt. Vernon) for 13-14 boys, and Holt for 15-18 boys. Other Otters who landed in the high point top three in their age groups were Lauren Cravens (DuQuoin) for 8-and-under, Olivia Cravens (DuQuoin) for 9-10, Reis Rubin (Salem) and Nathaniel Groh (Mt. Vernon) for 13-14, and Kasey King (Harrisburg) for 15-18 girls.
A week later; Rhine, Cully, Heitmeyer and Roberts put their exclamation mark on the USA Swimming Long-Course Season by advancing to the Zone Championships, Aug. 6-8, in Lincoln, Neb., where every swimmer medaled and Cully set a new Ozark LSC record time in the 100M freestyle. This meet required that all swimmers met the standards of USA Swimming AAA Times with a total of 10 states competing. All RLAY competitors swam six events over a course of three days with Rhine required to compete in prelims and finals.
Cully came up champion in the 50 freestyle, and added a second-place in the 100 free, third in the 200 free relay with Heitmeyer and other Ozark swimmers, fourth in the 50 backstroke, and fifth in the 200 free.
In addition to third in the 200 free relay, Heitmeyer took fifth in the 50 breast stroke and eighth in the 200 Individual Medley. Roberts placed fourth in the 200 IM, fifth in the 50 butterfly and sixth in the 100 fly. Rhine took third in the 100 backstroke, fifth in the 50 back and sixth in the 200 back.
“Our season is over, but we go back to short course in September and that goes through March,” Johnston said. “We have done really well, especially considering we don’t’ train in a long course pool and every team we compete against has a long course pool to train in. The other coaches are just amazed that we can compete at a high level against their kids. I’m very proud of our swimmers’ accomplishments. I never would have imagined. You always think they’re good, but when you take them to a zone meet and compete against that many states, for all of our kids to medal is beyond great.”
For parents and youth interested in joining the RLAY Otters Swim Team, a meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Aug. 23, at the Rend Lake College Aquatics Center. For more information, call 618-437-5321, Ext. 1207.
“Anyone interested in swimming for the Otters, please attend this meeting,” Johnston said. “It is a sign-up meeting and our season starts up again in September. Ages five to 21 are welcome and as long as you can swim 25 meters of freestyle and 25 meters of backstroke without assistance, you are ready for a swim team.”