Marian’s performance at the 2017 Nebraska state swimming meet at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln on Feb. 25 was anything but disappointing. The team brought home the runner-up trophy, earning a total of 297 points, placing only behind a powerful opponent of Lincoln Southwest, who earned 496.5.
The loss of senior divers Taylor Carter and Kelly Straub to leg injuries was definitely a setback for the Crusaders, but they didn’t let that set a tone of defeat for the rest of the meet.
The Marian team earned numerous individual medals in various events throughout the meet.
The 200-yard-medley relay team of juniors Molly Miller, Lily Nelson, freshman Isabella Palmer and sophomore Kayla Gornall took the bronze; junior Cassie Palmer received two individual bronze medals for her 3rd place finishes in the 200-yard-freestyle and the 500-yard-freestyle; the 200-yard-freestyle relay team of juniors Delaney Kottke, Olivia Tate, Gornall and senior Naeleah Hadford brought home the silver and the 400-yard-freestyle relay team of Kottke, Tate, Palmer and Hadford added another silver medal to the count.
Perhaps the most exciting of the individual performances at the state meet, though, was that of Naeleah Hadford.
The skillful senior took the silver in the 100-yard-freestyle and, by just a few hundredths of a second, snagged the gold medal in the 50-yard-freestyle, beating three speedy Lincoln Southwest swimmers. The opponents were astoundingly fast, but Hadford was faster.
Hadford’s winning time in the 50-yard-freestyle will go down as the second-fastest time in Nebraska high school swimming history.
“I really don’t know how I did it,” Hadford said. “I’m usually really nervous and jittery before I race, but this time I wasn’t, which is very surprising, considering it’s the state tournament.”
Hadford’s senior leadership and unwavering dedication was key to the attitude, energy and, eventually, success of the entire team at the state meet.
“The team put forth a good effort,” Marian head coach B.J. Christiansen said. “They were definitely deserving of the runner-up trophy.”