Relying on depth and a complete team effort, the St. Joseph’s Academy swim team brought home its 13th consecutive state championship from the 2023 LHSAA Division I Swim Meet. Without a first-place finish in any of the meet’s 11 events, the team scored 418 points to finish ahead of runner-up Dominican by the razor-thin margin of one point. Rounding out the top five in the 22-team field were Mount Carmel Academy (212), St. Amant High School (149) and Mandeville High School (148).
The state championship meet was held November 17 and 18 at the SPAR Aquatic Center in Sulphur.
With Dominican winning five events, it appeared the Redstickers’ string of championships might be in jeopardy. But the swimmers stayed focused on the importance of each and every swim. “Throughout the weekend, our team meetings consisted of positive encouragement and releasing our worries to our God,” said Coach Ali Buchart. “The girls knew that Dominican was close, but the results from prelims did not necessarily matter. Our SJA team had room to move up in rank and score more points in finals.”
Buchart, a 2015 graduate of SJA, was a freshman on the swim team when the state championship streak began in 2011. She said the coaching staff focused on the positive, telling the swimmers to have confidence in themselves and trust in their preparation. “We talked with each swimmer before their races, and they were ready,” she said. “As the end of finals neared, the meet was extremely close, and everyone knew it. Just one point is all it takes.”
Results are as follows.
200 Medley Relay: Lyla Roper, Molly Mayo, Audrey Lemoine and Anna Guidroz, 2nd place, 1:48.99
200 Freestyle: Laura Purgerson, 3rd place, 1:55.39; Lyla Roper, 4th place, 1:56.20; Mary Claire Roberts, 8th place, 2:03.03; Claire Lofland, 14th place, 2:06.71
200 Individual Medley: Molly Mayo, 4th place, 2:12.21; Caroline Roberts, 5th place, 2:14.26; Madeline Oubre, 8th place, 2:18.67; Ava Schoen, 15th place, 2:26.58
50 Freestyle: Anna Guidroz, 2nd place, 24.38; Mary Grace Talbot, 6th place, 25.21; Kearra Grisby, 8th place, 25.56; Audrey Rothkamm, 15th place, 26.68
100 Butterfly: Audrey Lemoine, 5th place, 1:01.53; Isabella Vargas, 11th place, 1:03.73; Sydney Kline, 12th place, 1:03.85; Maddox Saurage, 13th place, 1:05.10
100 Freestyle: Anna Guidroz, 3rd place, 53.32; Mary Grace Talbot, 9th place, 56.17; Kearra Grisby, 10th place, 57.44; Audrey Rothkamm, 16th place, 1:01.43
500 Freestyle: Caroline Roberts, 4th place, 5:18.65; Mary Claire Roberts, 7th place, 5:23.91; Sydney Kline, 10th place, 5:31.99; Claire Lofland, 11th place, 5:33.36
200 Freestyle Relay: Kearra Grisby, Mary Grace Talbot, Audrey Rothkamm and Laura Purgerson, 2nd place, 1:42.70
100 Backstroke: Lyla Roper, 2nd place, 58.53; Laura Purgerson, 5th place, 1:00.50; Ava Schoen, 8th place, 1:04.51; Maddox Saurage, 14th place, 1:05.27
100 Breaststroke: Molly Mayo, 4th place, 1:06.39; Madeline Oubre, 6th place, 1:08.37; Audrey Lemoine, 8th place, 1:10.45; Mignon Prochaska, 17th place, 1:16.86
400 Freestyle Relay: Lyla Roper, Laura Purgerson, Caroline Roberts and Anna Guidroz, 2nd place, 3:36.97
Assistant Coach Jimmy Roberts said the swimmers focused on competing to the best of their ability in every swim. “It was truly the epitome of team effort by everyone who is a part of this 2023 state championship team,” he said.
“This was the finest example that every swim and every point counts,” Coach Nan Murtagh said. “It is a challenge not to be distracted with the instantaneous scoring following each event, especially when the score was so close the entire meet. But Coach Ali and Coach Jimmy did a fabulous job of keeping the team focused on what they needed to do, and they performed magnificently. The cheering team members and families provided tremendous support and encouragement. It was an impressive demonstration of determination and the will to succeed. Who says 13 is an unlucky number?”
Senior Anna Guidroz said every swimmer who scored points towards the team total played a crucial role in bringing home the champion’s trophy. “We needed everybody at their best to beat Dominican, and everybody on the team helped each other perform,” she said. “Our cheering teammates helped us feel extra excited to race, and we all gave our teammates encouraging words as we passed each other on the pool deck. As a senior, I’m sad to see my time on the SJA swim team come to an end. However, I am thankful for the lifelong friendships I have gained and the opportunity to compete for this team over the past four years.”
Junior Kearra Grisby said she was proud of her team for fighting hard for the win and for finding ways to put points on the board. “I think winning without getting first place is something we focus on too much,” she said. “Just because we didn’t finish first in any events doesn’t mean we didn’t earn our win. If anything, it shows how great our team is. Every one of us, swimmers and cheerers, fought for that win. We put our entire beings into our win. This was my first year swimming at state, and the atmosphere and camaraderie of our team was an experience I will never forget. I felt the sisterhood of SJA at the meet.”
Senior Laura Purgerson said this year’s championship meet was memorable, both in outcome and in the teamwork it took to win the title. She said the team’s depth carried the day. “I was honestly unsure of what was going to happen until the final points where scored,” she said. “However, points weren’t everything to me. It was how hard our team worked to drop time in events, hold ourselves accountable and disciplined throughout the season and continue to keep a positive mindset both in and outside the pool.”
“I am beyond proud of these young women,” Buchart added. “Swimming is an extremely difficult sport in which they spend more time training than they do racing. These young women deserve their 13th consecutive state title.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Nan Murtagh