Heather Cistola’s expectations entering her first season of high school swimming were rather modest: Have some fun, drop some times, see what happens.
At this point, the Lawrence High freshman might want to re-evaluate her goals.
In just three meets so far this season, Cistola has turned in state-qualifying times in five events — her times of 2:16.82 in the 200-yard IM and 1:02.10 in the 100-yard butterfly during Thursday’s dual with Shawnee Mission South were both state qualifying marks — while establishing herself as one of the season’s early surprises.
“I was just expecting to have fun and maybe break some of my personal-best times,” Cistola said. “(But) I’ve exceeded my expectations.”
Cistola’s emergence this spring hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere. She had thrived on the local club ranks, and Lawrence High swimming and diving coach Kent McDonald had heard about her abilities in the water — figuring that, in Cistola, his team would be getting a state-caliber swimmer.
But the coach admits that, after seeing her compete over the past few weeks, he, too, might have underestimated how talented Cistola really is.
“She’s winning these races against good people and qualifying for state with every swim,” said McDonald, whose team fell, 111-75, to SM South on Thursday despite Cistola’s four victories (two individual, two relays). “And that’s pretty amazing.”
While merely qualifying for the state meet is a notable accomplishment for a freshman, however, McDonald expects her to make some noise while she’s there, too.
“She’ll be able to compete this year,” said the coach. “Without jinxing her, she should be in the finals in at least two events.”
In addition to Cistola, meanwhile, Mallory Neet (100-yard freestyle), Anne Glasker (one-meter diving) and Jessica Boyer (500-yard freestyle) earned individual victories Thursday, while the 200-yard medley relay team of Cistola, Neet, Boyer and Katie Stites and the 400-yard freestyle team of Boyer, Stites, Neet and Cistola both finished first, as well.
“Of course we want to do well, but this was a small meet with no pressure really,” McDonald said. “Most of us brought down times. It was only the second meet for half the team, so they’re learning.”