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Hard charging Lady Tigers want to 'leave it all in the pool' and peak at State


Ozark’s rapidly rising 400 freestyle relay continue its recent ascent by finishing 15th at the Class 2 State Swim Meet over the weekend while sporting a bit of a new lineup. 

The Lady Tigers were made up of the same foursome that set a school record with a time of 3:43.65 at the SWMO Championships two weeks ago, when they were second to West Plains and its time of 3:43.46. But coach Steve Boyce changed the order in which Ozark hit the water.

Laura Pinzon Torres led off, followed by Jenabelle Justice handling the second leg, Grace Shaw assuming the third leg and stalwart Brooke Guyer serving as the anchor. It was the first time they have took off in that order.  

They responded with a 3:47.67 in the prelims and a 3:46.13 in the consolation finals. 

He threw us for a loop,” Justice said before the meet of Boyce’s announcement to the foursome of their assignments. “I think it will be fun whichever order we go in. I'm not sure if it'll make too much of a difference, but it might.”

“I trust Steve knows what he's doing (as the reason) behind it,” Shaw said. “For me, I don't know what he's doing. But I know in the end I think it will work out. Seeing how close we got (to West Plains), I think Steve saw something, that our potential is there to beat them.”

Shaw and Guyer turned in splits of 56.10 and 53.81 at the SWMO Championships.

“That was crazy for me,” Guyer said of her 53.81. “I swam a high 54 last year and was proud of it. My time would have won the 100 freestyle (by more than a full second), which is crazy because I do not sprint. I’m usually a distance swimmer.

“We wanted the win, but you can't be mad about second place,” she added. “West Plains is good and has always been (at the top). I was trying so hard to catch their anchor. I was almost there, just short by the touch of a finger, barely anything.”

Any disappointment by not catching and overtaking West Plains was wiped out by the Lady Tigers realizing they had smashed their previous PR.

"We got out of the pool and all of us were saying, 'We dropped three seconds!’” Shaw said. “We were like, ‘What, no we didn’t?’ You don’t realize in the moment what you did until you actually look at the board.” 

Just last month, Ozark won the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:56.57 at the COC Championships. 

All four members of the 400 freestyle are thrilled to be in the event, given its glamor as the meet finale and the premier race at any locale by most estimations.

“I love that relay because it brings out something in us — passion,” Guyer said. “It's an easy one to get motivated for. It's the end of the meet, your last hurrah. You’ve got a little energy left and you're willing to put it all out there. It's easy to put your whole effort into the pool when you know you're going to be done afterward — leave it all in the pool.”

“Freshman year, I was so excited getting to be in that relay,” Shaw said. “Everyone is cheering and it's loud. Being in (that) environment hypes you up.”

The crowd helps it be such a hyped event,” Justice said. “Everyone is either excited to be going home or because it's such a fast event."

The Lady Tigers were the highest finisher outside of the St. Louis and Kansas City  metro areas.  

The top eight finishers in each event advanced to the ‘A’ finals and the remaining top 16 moved on to the ‘B’ finals.

All four members of the 400  free relay are due to return next season.

“We’re trying to get our best time,” Pinzon Torres said . “We have the goal for speed.”

“Your whole goal during the season is to get to State, so there's not as much pressure,” Justice said.

“Our team, when we're in an intense environment and there is a lot of pressure on us, we always do better," Shaw said. "Where we're seeded, there is a lot of pressure. We're right on the border where we could make the finals or not. I think we're going to do really well.”

In the 200 individual medley, Guyer posted a time of 2:12.57 to finish ninth. She was seeded 16th after recording a  prelims time of 2:15.64.

In the 50 freestyle, Shaw finished 12th with a 25.33.