For the third year in a row, the Borgia girls swimming Lady Knights have a new coach.
Diane Jones takes over the program, following Kelly Brinkmann (2016-17) and Kevin Mabie (2015-16).
Jones has an extensive background in the sport. She was a four-year swimmer at Cor Jesu Academy and a team captain during her senior year.
She has returned to competitive swimming with the U.S. Masters and St. Louis Area Masters Swim Club’s circuit with the 400 individual medley, 200 backstroke and 200 breaststroke as her favorite events.
“The fact that I still train and compete helps me to empathize with what swimmers experience in training and competition,” Jones said.
She also has coaching experience in the sport. In 2000, she took over the Washington Swim Team from Joy Gerstein and led that group from the Suburban Swim League to the Gateway Swimming and Diving League.
“The program then was at risk of being disbanded due to family illness of the previous coach,” Jones said. “A number of parents got together to keep it going. I stepped up to coach on a one-year basis to transition the team to a new conference with multiple heats of competition, and to create a parent group structure to ensure continuity of the program and enable coaches to focus on coaching kids.”
Jones doesn’t have a formal assistant coach yet, but is getting help from Jennifer Alferman-Molitor, the original head coach of the Borgia program and head coach of the Borgia boys team.
Jones reports 14 swimmers are currently out for the team. Girls swimming started practice a week after basketball and wrestling.
The team’s most decorated swimmer is back for her senior season. Emily Reuwer is the area’s lone state qualifier and has been to the MSHSAA meet at the St. Peters Rec-Plex three times.
“The goal this year is to get to state finals, and get her on a medal stand,” Jones said.
Reuwer, a team captain, excels in the backstroke and freestyle races.
The team has three other seniors.
Cassandra Caragine is a captain and focuses on the 500 and 200 freestyle events.
Rachel Nieder is a returning senior who excels in the 100 backstroke.
Hannah Whitacre is a transfer from Washington. She didn’t swim last season, but was a key member of the Lady Jays in 2014. She also will swim the distance freestyle races.
There are several others who should help the team.
Aspen Nelson, a junior, starts the season injured, but Jones is hopeful she will recover quickly and be ready to go. She is a member of relay teams and swims in the butterfly.
“Sky’s the limit here,” Jones said. “These girls are hard workers. They push themselves hard, they do not complain, they flip their turns at every end. I’ll know more when I time them. But they have a terrific work ethic, which is absolutely essential to reach goals in swimming.”
Jones has some simple goals, and some lofty ones as well.
“I hope for us to compete well against teams of similar depth, and to get some girls on the medal stand at some larger invitational meets,” she said.
Just as MSHSAA did with the boys, there will be two classes this season for girls swimming.
That should create more opportunities to advance for Borgia.
“Breaking the sport into two classes is a big motivator for these girls, as it was for the boys,” Jones said. “While automatic qualifying times are pretty much the same as last year, and are the same for both classes, the big difference is in the relays. The top 32 make it. We want to get to the top 32 of Class 1 relay teams. Getting as many of the relays to qualify as possible is one of our big team goals.”
Another big goal is to get Reuwer on the medal stand.
“To get Emily Reuwer to state finals, and get her on the medal stand as she so richly deserves,” Jones said. “We’d love to be able to qualify a second athlete for individual as well.”
Jones has some simpler goals as well.
“Another goal is to push each other to maximize each others’ performances,” Jones said. “When you are swimming seven or eight girls to a lane, you really need to have a choreography — everyone needs to push. We want to create an atmosphere of community, incorporating the spiritual aspects of Borgia as well.”
Jones sees the Town Showdown meet with Washington, Friday, Feb. 2, at the Four Rivers Area Family YMCA, as being one to watch.
“I think the Washington versus Borgia meet should showcase a lot of talent on both sides,” Jones said. “The cool thing about that is that so many of these kids have grown up together. Between summer swimming and the year-round opportunities available now through the YMCA, the level of talent in this sport in the area is improving in both quality and numbers. This is a rising sport.”
Borgia opens the season Nov. 30 in a tri-meet against Lutheran St. Charles and John Burroughs at John Burroughs.
The team has four home meets, Farmington Dec. 8, Duchesne Jan. 19, Rosati-Kain Jan. 26 and Washington Feb. 2.