By Michael Davison

Globe Sports Writer

Less than a second separates a pair of Joplin High School swimmers from qualifying for the state meet. And time is running out.

Senior Jenny Miller and junior Lacey Carnahan will have one last shot at qualifying in the 100-meter breaststroke and 100 backstroke, respectively, when they take part in the Southwest Missouri Conference Championships in Springfield. Preliminaries were Thursday; finals are scheduled for Saturday.

"There's a little bit of pressure," said Miller, who plans on attending Pittsburg State University and cheerleading next year. "It will be hard."

"I'm a half second away, and just to cut a 10th of a second off you have to work so hard," Carnahan said.

Alleviating some of that pressure is the fact both she and Carnahan have qualified for the Missouri State Championships in other events.

But that doesn't mean this week's event will be any easier.

"It's most of the same teams we've seen this year, so nothing's different there," said Miller, who has qualified in the three relay teams. "But at state, the competition is harder because everybody's in one class, so everybody this week wants to get their times down."

At the previous home meet, Carnahan took a break from the 500 freestyle, which she's qualified for along with the relays.

"I wanted to be excited for it at the conference," she said. "There are some good swimmers there with good times, so I'll have to be prepared.

"It's the most grueling event. It takes a lot of hard training, but it helps in the other events."

The last two relay teams, the 200 and 400 freestyle, qualified at the previous home meet.

"It's a relief, especially for the 200 free," Carnahan said. "Now we can just concentrate on placing well at the conference instead of worrying about that and qualifying for state."

This year has been a historic one for Carnahan and sophomore Ali Stauffer. They set school records in three events: Stauffer in the 50 freestyle (25:94 beating Megan Beard's time in 1998) and the 100 butterfly (1:03.44 topping Bridget Thompson's time last year), and Carnahan in the 500 freestyle (5:36.63 beating Beard's 1998 time).

Stauffer has to choose which event she'll swim because she's qualified in three individual events (100 butterfly, 100 freestyle and 50 freestyle) and three relays. State rules limit a swimmer to two individual events and two relays.

"Coach (Vicki Carnahan) will help me decide what to swim," Stauffer said. "It'll probably be whichever one I can seed higher in.

"The competition is way tougher at state."

The state meet will be May 19-20 in St. Peters.

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