CREST swimmers help Arkansas claim national title at Junior Olympics

(PHOTO COURTESY OF CREST/News Observer)

STAFF REPORTS

 

While the world turned its collective eyes to Tokyo to watch the belated 2020 Summer Olympics, five Ashley County athletes competed in the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics for swimming.

Ashley County swimmers medaled in the competition and Team Arkansas went home with the national championship title. The swimmers also broke their personal records in the water during the competition.

Bryce Bailey, Hannah Cossey, Hayley Cossey, Sarah Beth Cossey, and Kaylee Hays traveled to the CY Fair Natatorium in Houston for the Junior Olympics events on Saturday, July 31, and on the following Sunday.

On Saturday, Bailey swam in the 50-meter freestyle, which Coach Shannon Hornsby said is one of the most competitive events in the senior boys category.

“Bryce gave this event his all, and we couldn’t be more proud of his performance,” she said.

Hannah and Hayley Cossey both competed in the 50-meter freestyle, the 200-meter individual medley (IM), and the 50-meter backstroke.

“Hannah cut time in all of these events, including 11.39 seconds in her 200 IM,” Hornby said. “Hayley swam the same events as Hannah, and cut time in every event, as well. Her most impressive of the day with a time drop of 23.46 seconds in her 200 IM. Together, Hannah and Hayley swam in a 400 Freestyle Relay, for which they earned their first Junior Olympic medals.”

Sara Beth Cossey swam in the 50-meter freestyle and set a personal record when she cut 3.41 seconds off of her best time.

Hays entered her name in the lists for the 50-meter freestyle and the 400-meter freestyle relay on Saturday, and at the end of the day she’d joined her teammates in setting a personal best when she finished the 50-meter freestyle 2.16 seconds faster than ever before.

Sunday, Aug. 1, was when Team Arkansas claimed the championship, coming from behind to beat Team New England — with whom they’d traded the No. 1 and No. 2 slots several times during the competitions  — after starting the day down nearly 100 points. 

When Bailey took to the water, his finish was three placements higher than projected by his entry time.

Hannah Cossey’s time in the water was short — or at least shorter than ever before — since she set a new personal record by dropping 2.9 seconds from her 100-meter freestyle.

Her Sunday competitions also included the 100-meter backstroke, a change of plan that a knee issue forced even though she had originally qualified to swim the breastroke.

“Hannah swam her hardest in this event,” Hornsby said.

Hayley Cossey  swam the 50-meter breaststroke to set a personal best when she dropped 6.45 seconds on her time, and followed up that performance by besting herself again in the 100-meter freestyle, shaving off a solid 5.28 seconds in that event.

Sarah Beth Cossey likewise chopped off time in multiple events, dropping 6.75 seconds in the 50-meter breaststroke and 5.06 seconds in the 100-meter freestyle.

Not wanting to upset the team’s upward momentum for the day, Hays set personal records by reducing her 100-meter breaststroke time by 1.53 seconds and her 100-meter freestyle by 2.59 seconds. 

In the relays, the five Ashley Couny swimmers earned at total of 114 points for Team Arkansas.

“This was a crazy, fun, and busy trip,” Hornsby said. “We are so proud of all of these swimmers, and equally as thankful for the sponsors and supporters that helped make this possible. We can’t wait to send even more swimmers to  compete at next year’s Junior Olympic Games.”

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