By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Kate Stauffer has been around swimming for longer than she can remember.
“I went to my first swim meet when I was 3 weeks old,” she said.
In the early years, she was a spectator at her older sister Ali’s swim meets. Ali Stauffer, who is seven years older, was a four-time state qualifier for Joplin High School.
Kate remembers watching Ali at the state competitions. Now it’s her turn.
The Joplin Eagles sophomore will compete in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle at the 2013 MSHSAA girls state swimming championships this weekend at St. Peters, Mo.
Kate began swimming competitively at age 7 and said her older sister, who earned all-conference honors at Missouri State, has always served as a mentor.
“She’s helped me through a lot,” Kate said. “She’s been a role model. ... She swam in college, and it’s my goal to swim in college.”
Still, Kate has her eyes on Ali’s school record of 25.31 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle. Kate enters as the 18th seed with a time of 25.41 seconds. The top 16 from Friday’s preliminaries advance to finals on Saturday. A 25.31 would likely get her in the finals. Glendale junior Nikki Sisson holds the top qualifying time in the event at 24.42 seconds.
“I would like to make the top 16 in the 50 free, and to beat my sister’s school record in the 50 free would be nice, too,” Kate said. “Her record is 25.31. I’d like to go about 25.1.”
Kate is seeded 34th in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 56.15 seconds.
“I just hope she will swim her heart out,” Joplin coach Blair Dance said. “She’s been working really hard this season for those state times. In her 50 free, she’s right on the border for qualifying for the final day, so we’re hoping she can do that.”
Dance said that even making it to state is a great accomplishment as the qualifying times become increasingly difficult and there is only one classification in swimming.
“Each year, the times get faster and faster,” Dance said. “I know from when I was swimming six years ago, the times have gotten even faster. It becomes tougher to qualify. ... It’s the best of the best in Missouri, so just being able to swim with them is pretty cool.”
Kate, who qualified for state on two relays as a freshman, said the experience will help.
“It does, because I was really nervous as a freshman,” she said. “They were all juniors and seniors. This year I know I’ve been there and have the experience.”
Kate also feels good knowing her sister will be in attendance.
“She’ll be there,” Kate said. “I’m very excited.”
Carthage’s Housh and Nevada’s Reichard qualify
Carthage sophomore Mercy Housh and Nevada junior Grace Reichard also will be representing Southwest Missouri in this weekend’s state swimming meet at St. Peters.
Housh, who holds four individual school records at Carthage, will compete in the 200-yard IM and the 500-yard freestyle.
She is seeded 21st in the 200 IM with a time of 2:16.22. The 16th-best qualifying time is 2:14.93.
Housh enters with the 17th-best qualfying time in the 500-yard freestyle at 5:24.71.
“Her best chance of making finals is in the 500 freestyle,” Carthage coach Braden McBride said. “She tends to be more of a distance swimmer. She’s got a good chance of making finals.”
Reichard will compete in the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard breaststroke. She enters with the ninth-best qualifying time in the 200 freestyle at 1:58.29 and the 12th-best in the breastroke at 1:10.61.
Joplin’s Stauffer said the three are friends and will root for each other this weekend.
“We’re going to go together as one big team,” Stauffer said.