By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
First, there was the initial celebration from winning her heat. Then came the hugs from teammates and coaches.
The commotion was understandable. Joplin sophomore Kate Stauffer had just qualified for state in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 28.33 seconds on Tuesday during Joplin’s double dual swimming meet at the Missouri Southern pool.
“I’m very excited,” Stauffer said. “I’ve been working toward it for a long time. This has been my goal. All year, I didn’t care about anything else. I just wanted to make state.”
Stauffer edged the state qualifying time of 28.76 seconds and beat Lamar’s Kaelyn Sturgell (30.63) by more than two seconds.
But what’s interesting is that Stauffer doesn’t consider the 50 freestyle her best event and didn’t really start focusing on it until the middle of the season.
“We’ve been working on her state times the whole season, but we kind of discovered midseason that she could be a sprinter,” Joplin coach Blair Dance said. “So we’ve been really training for the 50, and she finally got it tonight.”
Next on Stauffer’s agenda is trying to qualify for state in the 100-meter breaststroke. Despite winning the event Tuesday in 1:22.24, Stauffer was more than a second shy of the qualifying mark of 1:20.61.
Stauffer will have three more chances to qualify, beginning with the Springfield Invitational on Saturday.
As a team, Joplin finished 3-1 at the double dual. The Eagles defeated Nevada 78-76, Parkview 101-29 and Summit Prep Academy 102-12. Joplin lost 87-67 to Lamar.
In addition to Stauffer’s two wins, Joplin had two more first-place finishes. Kathleen Hughes won the 200-meter IM in 3:01.84, and Jaed’en Humphrey won the 100-meter freestyle in 1:15.5.
Other individual winners included Lamar’s Johnna Cato in the 200-meter freestyle, Lamar’s Kenna Roland in the 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter backstroke and Nevada’s Grace Reichard in the 500-meter freestyle.
In their last home meet of the season, the Eagles took time to honor their lone senior Anna Davis for senior night.
“She’s a great leader,” Dance said. “She’s really done a great job this year being the only senior and with such a small team, she’s done a great job bringing the team together. We will definitely miss her.”
Davis said she wants to make the most out of the final meets of her high school career.
“I would like to get best times in all my races, and just get a few good meets in before I’m finished,” she said.