By Don Lowe

 The Carl Junction Lady Bulldogs swimming team has splish-splashed its way to terrific triumphs in a relatively short timeframe since beginning competition in this sport 5 years ago. 

   CJHS Swimming Head Coach Stephanie Miller, who has played an integral role in building this program over the past 4 years, reflected on keys to the overall success thus far and said, “As a coach, I think good communication and leadership is as important as knowledge of the sport. 

   “When I started this team, I knew creating a team environment in what is primarily an individual sport would make it more fun. But I didn’t realize the positive team vibe would be the major reason the girls return year after year.” 

   As for what has allowed Carl Junction to achieve so much, particularly over the past couple of years, Coach Miller said, “The strength of this team is that the girls agree to my high expectations and standards. 

   “At the beginning of the season, I set the bar very high. As the season goes along, the girls take ownership of the expectations. Goals that seem like a big reach become reality.” 

   Much like with most any sport, there are demands in swimming, and Coach Miller said, “Look, swimmers are crazy. They get up at 4:45 am to go get in cold water and look at a black line with an elevated heart rate for 90 minutes. It can be hard for these girls not to have their own pool. 

   “It can be hard, and dare I say courageous, for some of the girls that come out with no prior swimming experience. It can be hard going to the pool on Thanksgiving and Christmas break. I list these challenges, but they are all minor. The real challenge of swimming is training. 

   “It’s a sport with endless repetition. One mile is 66 lengths of the pool. These girls will do between two to three miles before school starts. 

   “I am fortunate, because I have been given the opportunity to coach a team with serious talent. 

   “What continues to impress me is that while practice is a big deal, the impact of mental toughness and self-confidence is huge. By the end of the season, the girls have a swagger you can see. The true measure of success and hope for these girls is that this confidence lives long after their days in the pool are over. 

   “What makes me most proud about this team is that we nailed the goals from the beginning. 

   “Have fun, learn life lessons and swim fast, in that order. Everything we do focuses on those goals. When I made these goals the first year, I never knew they would become the standard for everything we do.” 

Carl Junction Lady Bulldogs Swimming Team Fast Facts 

First Season: 2017-18

How It All Began: Carl Junction Head Coach Stephanie Miller said, “The program was the result of many parents working in conjunction with Athletic Director Jesse Wall and eventually the school board, who decided the timing was right to start the team. The first year, the team shared Joplin High School’s coach, Ali Stauffer. After the first year, I was hired, and practice moved from Missouri Southern State University in the afternoon to Webb City High School from 5:30-7 am. Coach Kerri Sundy has been my assistant for 4 years.”

Past Two Years: Individually, earned 18 All-State awards and 13 All-State Honorable Mention accolades. Collectively, the team has finished third at the Southwest Missouri Championships and sixth in the state, while claiming a Central Ozark Conference championship and runner’s-up finish as well.    

Top Individuals/Best Events: Chloe Miller/50 Free; Alyanza Montez/50 Free; Carsyn Smith/100 Back; Skyler Sundy/100 Back; and Abigail Wilson/100 Breaststroke.          

Swim Meet Structure: According to Coach Miller, “There are eight individual races and three relay events. The goal is to fill the entire lineup. It is a bit like a sudoku puzzle.”     

Quotable: “I think the key to success is finding strengths in each team member and then using that strength for value to the entire team,” Coach Miller said.

See more photos in the June 2022 issue of Show Me The Ozarks Magazine