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Francis Howell girls swimmers place 4th at state, 200 free relay sets new state record

The Francis Howell girls 200 free relay team of Natalie Nguyen, Madison Nguyen, Emma Brabham, and Reagan Cathcart made history on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, setting a new state record in the 200 free relay at the Class 2 state meet at Rec-Plex in St. Peters. [Ann Hawkey photo]

Last Saturday (Feb. 17) will go down as a record-setting day for the Francis Howell girls swim team that officially turned the Vikings into a force in the pool.

Competing with just four swimmers, the Vikings dove, stroked, and raced their way to a fourth place finish in the team portion of the Class 2 state meet at Rec-Plex in St. Peters.

Howell, scoring 178.5 points finished behind Rock Bridge, Lafayette, and Hickman in the final meet standings.

“It was awesome to do it with this group with two of them graduating, it was the one and only chance that we had accomplish what we did and it was our goal from day one,” Francis Howell coach Anna Jovanovic said. “So, we are very happy with the results.”

The fourth place finish was also the best in school history for the program. “For us to get in there and put our name on the map with only four girls against powerhouses like Lafayette, Rock Bridge, and Hickman when they have like 20 girls qualifying, a lot of coaches were shocked by how well we did with only four girls on our team.”

One particular race defined the how special the meet was for the Vikings. The 200 meter free relay.

Howell’s 200 meter relay team, comprised of seniors Emma Brabham, Natalie Nguyen, and sophomores Natalie Nguyen, and Reagan Cathcart set a new state record as the foursome won the relay in 1:36.32, besting the previous mark set in 2006 by Blue Springs.

Brabham said that she and her teammates had talked about getting the state record pretty much from the start of the season and would remind each other daily of making that goal a reality.

“We’re all really good friends, so we would text each other each day that we’re gonna win and be state champs in the 200 free relay,” Brabham said. “We worked really hard and really pushed each other in practice and it ended up happening, so it’s a really great feeling.”

Brabham and Ngyuen, who will continue their swimming careers at Truman State University in the fall, also did well in the 200 IM as Brabham took second (2:07.32) and Ngyuen was sixth (2.09.76).

Cathcart turned in a strong performance in the 50 free, finished second with a time of 23.67.

The Vikings also fared well in the 400 free relay with a third place finish (3:34.17) just behind Lafayette and Rock Bridge.

In addition to the 200 free relay state record, the Vikings set five school records in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 200 IM, and 200 free relay.

“The girls great swim and kept the races going throughout the meet,” Jovanovic said. “It’s kind of hard to keep up that momentum going from the very first event to the last event but they were running on adrenaline and I can not ask for more and neither could they.”

Brabham believes the Vikings will no longer be overlooked in swimming circles thanks to the top-shelf effort turned in at state by this year’s group.

“I think the we’re underrated a lot, so I think it’s really good and really represents Howell and how we always step up in our sports and we always come together as a community and kind of show who were are,” Brabham said.




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