St. Dominic High School's swim team is on the rise this season, already qualifying for seven events at the state meet, with several more opportunities ahead. Among the qualifiers are two sisters, Sarah and Kate Nelson, both standouts in the sport.
A feather in the (swim) cap for the team was a third-place finish in the competitive Fort Zumwalt North Invitational at St. Peters Rec-Plex on Jan. 7.
Jacquie Moutray, in her second year as coach of the team, said the key to the program's rise is having a number of athletes who swim year-round and building on their successes. "I set goals for them at the beginning of the year last year, but I didn't tell them what they were because I didn't want to make them nervous," Moutray said. "They hit every goal I set for them, and I did the same thing with them this year."
This year, however, the swimmers had one goal already in mind. They want to bring home a conference championship — one of Moutray's goals also.
The team is undefeated in its conference so far. The conference championship will be decided Feb. 8 and 9.
The Fort Zumwalt North Invitational Jan. 7 was a turning point. Three years ago, St. Dominic finished last. Two years ago, they were ninth, last year they were sixth and this year they finished third. It was a tight race, "but they brought it home. So it's pretty exciting having the hardware in our trophy case for swimming," Moutray said of this year's finish.
Sarah Nelson, a junior who's qualified in several events at state, said she was especially proud of the relay team that took first place in the initial event of the invitational. Senior Alexis Liszewski and junior Madeline Stransky joined the Nelson sisters on the winning relay team.
The team was energized when some 40 St. Dominic students attended a swim meet in December — a win against Borgia. In their latest meet Jan. 17, St. Dominic won with 125 points to 109 for Francis Howell Central High School and 90 for Lutheran High School St. Charles.
Last year, the team lost a meet by one point, in part because St. Dominic had no one to enter the diving competition. So at the start of this year, Moutray asked her players to help recruit some divers. They ended up with two, junior Annie Neumann, a transfer to the school who's had experience, and senior Bailey McNamee, who'd never taken part in the sport before but has performed well.
The swim team is focused on doing their best but not overly serious. "They're so much fun to be around," Moutray said. "We joke around all the time. It makes it so much easier. They know they can joke around with me, and they can ask me anything or come talk to me about anything."
Sarah Nelson has been swimming for many years and quickly discovered she likes the feeling of winning. She and her sister practice each night with their high school team and with their club team. St. Dominic is a special place for her. "Being on the high school team is probably one of the best experiences I've had here," she said. "You get super-close to the girls on the team, and some of my best friends have come from swimming. It's just a lot of fun."
Kate Nelson, a freshman, has played a number of sports, but swimming stuck. She also cited the bond she has with teammates.
The younger Nelson sister is especially happy that the relay team qualified for the state tournament. Having her sister on the team has been a plus. "She is a really great swimmer," Kate Nelson said. "I can look up to her and ask her for tips. She can help me with what I have trouble with."
At St. Dominic, she said, "you never feel left out. You always have people who care about you."
Before each meet, the team prays a Hail Mary and asks Jesus and Mary to bless them. Sarah Nelson said the relay team prays together as well and asks that all their hard work pays off. RELATED ARTICLE(S):For Olympic swimmer, 'sense of humility' key to all her accomplishments