COLUMBIA — Kelley Tackett gave a subtle nod when she hit the touch pad to finish the 100-yard backstroke.
Peering through prescription goggles, her time Saturday more than beat the measure needed to qualify for the Missouri State Championships on Feb. 20. Even her “seed time,” or the pace that gave her the top spot in the heat, had met state standards.
But a bright yellow “2” for second place flashed next to Tackett’s time. Lane five, occupied by Hickman freshman Cameron Holzum took first place.
The time: 1:01:35.
Holzum was headed to state by a healthy two seconds. She outswam her own seed time by four.
Tackett, Rock Bridge’s star junior, flipped off her goggles and grabbed the rope on her right, smiling while out of breath.
“Team CoMo,” the conglomerate of Columbia’s three high school swim teams, was sending another swimmer to the big time.
“I was so excited for her,” Tackett said. “She worked so hard for this.”
“That’s just like her,” coach Laura Wacker said about Tackett’s sportsmanship. “It makes me tear up. That girl’s not even on her team.”
Tackett needed the 200-yard individual medley and 100-backstroke to qualify for each of the 12 state-wide events. She got them both.
Hickman sophomore Brittany Wen qualified for every event as well.
“It’s a rarity to have somebody who can do that. It’s amazing to have two,” said Wacker, who coaches all three Columbia high school teams. “They’re just well-rounded. They train every stroke.”
Wacker said having two swimmers of that caliber in the same pool motivates her other swimmers. She said next year, Team CoMo has a better chance of placing even more girls in every event.
“That’s just a tribute to them,” Wacker said. “Obviously, everybody would like to be like them.”
It’s also a testament, Tackett said, for the relationship of the 54 swimmers from all three Columbia schools: Rock Bridge, Hickman and Muriel Williams Battle.
“We don’t see it as three different teams,” Tackett said. “But it is weird on relays.”
Holzum’s Hickman quartet beat out Tackett’s Rock Bridge squad in the 400-yard freestyle relay to end the meet.
By the time Tackett jumped in the water as the Bruins’ anchor leg, Holzum — Hickman’s third swimmer — had given the Kewpies a six-second lead.
“These guys are competitive,” Wacker said. “Team against team — that’s what makes high school swimming so fun.”
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.