Senior Melanie Cervantes

Senior Melanie Cervantes swims during a preseason practice at the Junction City YMCA on Tuesday.

In 2020, Junction City girl’s swimming head coach Beth Schlesener saw the stars aligning for a special season for her program. She had several good seniors and a bevy of talented underclassmen that could’ve boosted the Lady Jays to the state swimming tournament for the first time in a while.

Unfortunately, the pandemic struck and the season was canceled along with the hopes and dreams attached to the possible success of that year’s swimming squad. Fortunately for Schlesener, the group that did return to the pool for this year’s swim season has shown the aspiration and ability to pick up that mantle left poolside after everything last year was canceled.

“The girls always do what I ask them to do and they’re hard workers,” Schlesener said. “We’ve already gone through all four strokes. They’ve got a great work ethic. They come here and they’re enthusiastic. They want to have a really great season because we didn’t get a season last year.”

Led by seniors Abby Rosauer, Lauren Kim, Ashlynn Shea and Melanie Cervantes, the Blue Jay swimmers have been working on bringing a team that has two years’ worth of new swimmers together into one cohesive whole.

“I think I can speak on behalf of the other upperclassmen,” Rosauer said. “It’s really important to us seniors that we don’t create a toxic environment between us and the freshmen, even though we’re only going to swim with them for one year. We just want to be role models, because we had that and that just makes a chain reaction.”

Rosauer helped manage the boys’ swim team during the winter and was envious of the fun they got to have on their way to four swimmers getting to compete at state. Now that she’s getting her chance in the pool, she’s ready to show her improvement and lead the girls’ charge to their own state appearance.

“I felt like I started off pretty strong last year and I hope I stay that way this year,” Rosauer said. “I feel like I’m in kind of like the faster group when we kind of divide up and I hope I just kind of hold my spot.”

The Blue Jays will open up their season on March 25th at Salina South, the first step in the journey to return to the Class 6A State Swimming and Diving Championship in Topeka in May.

“Our expectation is always to improve our times at every meet and to get to state,” Schlesener said. “It’s been a long time that I’ve sent anybody from my girls’ teams to state. But looking at some of these swimmers so far, they’re maintaining some great times and maybe it’s going to happen this year.”

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