Westside girls swimming and diving team wins state championship


Ross Jernstrom

The girls swim team is honored at a pep rally on Monday, Feb. 27.

For the first time since 2012 the Westside girls swimming and diving team won the State Championship on Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. A season-long battle between the Warriors and the Omaha Marian Crusaders came to an end in the first tie since 1982, with both teams being named state champions. The final day started, with Westside down by 19 points in the unofficial scoring count. The Warriors overcame the deficit, while most scenarios had the Warriors losing by 10-25. The title came down to the final event in the 400 freestyle relay. Marian was the heavy favorite in the event, but in order to share the title Westside had to finish second, and they did just that. 

The 2022-2023 season marked the first year as head coach for Andy Rider, who joined several other former Westside coaches in winning state in their first year.. The Warrior girls also had two individual state champions. Junior Kate Stevens won the 50 freestyle finishing in 23.85, winning by .34 of a second. The victory by Stevens marks the first time a Westside swimmer has won the event since1989. Sophomore Piper Hagen won the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:06.57, winning by .37 of a second. Westside’s last win in the 200 individual medley was back in 1996. Looking back at the year Stevens believes a tie was deserving for both teams. 

“It’s all a really great feeling. It was so exciting to come out and win as a team,” Stevens said. “It was pretty fitting that we came out in a tie because we’ve battled back and forth so much, and were two really, really good teams.”

The Westside team credits each other for great energy and pushing each other all year. The diving team set the tone on day one with senior Amelia Ward placing fourth, senior Lydia Frost and junior Ava Johnson both having personal bests. Rider and the team also credit the energy stemming from the winners of the consolation swims, junior Cece Gerard in the 200 freestyle, sophomore Elaina Kratky in the 500 freestyle, sophomore Cora Dietrich in the 200 individual medley  and junior Olivia Elbert in the 100 breaststroke. 

“I knew we had to have some really good swims, not only from our top tier kids but from our kids that were in consolation,” Rider said. “The swims really sparked us throughout the day, our consolation final kids giving that energy to our final kids, and the kids in the finals were also swimming great.”

The Warriors had an unofficial deficit of 19 points going into the final day. Marian being the strong team they are, it made it very tough for the Warriors to come back. Coach Rider described the situation as tough but doable. It took every swimmer and every race to make up the points and split the title with Marian. Hagen explains what it took from the team and coaches to come back. 

“Coach Rider gave us a lot of motivation and so did the other coaches,” Hagen said. “They said we really have to work hard for this if we want to win this and I think all the girls really took that into consideration and we just fought till the end.”

With this win Rider and the team engrave their name in the decorated Westside swimming program with a total of 14 state championships. Rider joins a list of coaches who also won the state championship title in year number one. The team this year is young and has a bright future.  Winning this year is just the start of something special for the future. 

“Westside is definitely a storied program on the boys and girls side and adding to that legacy, adding to the championships here at Westside is super special,” Rider said. “The kids fought all day on Friday and Saturday to put themselves in a good position to win a championship for not only themselves, but the school and this community. The Westside community is just so supportive of every sport here and especially our program.”

Westside has an excellent chance to defend their state title in 2024. All of the medal winners from the state meet will return next year.