KEARNEY — Kearney senior Andi Kreiling became the second Bulldog to win a state championship in girls swimming with her first-place finish in 100-yard freestyle on Saturday, Feb. 20 at City of St. Peters Rec-Plex.
Kreiling completed the race with a time of 52.29. She edged out three other competitors who had sub-53 second times, including the 52.35 time of runner-up Makenzie Kurre of Savannah. The last Bulldog girls swimmer to win a state title was Madison Strathman in 100 breaststroke in 2015.
Kreiling nearly won two state championships, but her time of 23.55 in the 50 free left her five-hundredths of a second behind Maggie Moore of New Covenant Academy.
“I think I was a little sad about that one, but the girl that beat me was probably the nicest swimmer I ever met,” Kreiling said. “I was fine with losing to her.”
Kreiling said she didn’t want that close finish to get into her head, so she just shut out that result and got ready for the 100 free. She was clearly happy with her finish in that one.
“It just feels amazing, honestly,” Kreiling said. “It feels nice to end the season that way and end my high school swim career that way.”
Her storybook ending nearly remained a fantasy though.
Kreiling began her state swimming career by taking third place in the 50 and 100 freestyle, along with a few medals on relay teams, but it looked like her fourth-place medal in the 50 free during her sophomore campaign would be her last mark in varsity swimming.
She decided to sit out the 2019-20 girls swimming season because she felt her class schedule during her junior year would spread her too thin to compete in two sports. The Arizona state volleyball commit chose the hardwood over the pool deck.
But when she realized her senior-year workload would allow her to return to the swim team this season, it was not as simple as diving back into the water.
“You can take off time in other sports, but swimming is completely different,” Kreiling said. “If you miss three days of practice, you feel slow.”
Not only was she trying to make up a year of lost time in the water, Kreiling and her teammates faced multiple quarantines because of COVID-19 that kept them out of the pool for weeks at a time.
Kreiling said she spent the first couple months of the season trying to catch up with the ghosts of her past times. She said that by the end of the season, she was finally able to chase the times of the best freestyle swimmers in Missouri Class 1.
Just as she was ready for a final trip to state, the team spent the final two weeks without a pool as a baseball severely damaged a window at their practice facility. Kearney head coach Alli Baldwin kept finding different pools for the Bulldogs to use as they geared up for state.
It paid off as Kreiling’s multiple top-3 performances were the first time that’s happened for Kearney since Kreiling had three during her freshman season.
Freshman Tori Tarr joined Kreiling as a Bulldog who advanced to the state finals. Tarr took 12th in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:00.93 and 17th in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:03.06.
Kreiling and Tarr’s performances this year marked a return to the state finals for the Bulldogs after six competitors were unable to advance past the preliminaries of last year’s competition.
Claire Woehrman, Jillian Bonderer, Carlee Clawson and Julia Bolton also advanced to the state competition for Kearney this year.