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SSHS swimmers off to a strong start

by Graham Thomas | January 11, 2023 at 6:45 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Mark Strickland Photography The 2022-23 Siloam Springs swim team.

The Siloam Springs swim team is off to an exciting start to its 2022-23 season.

The Panthers and Lady Panthers competed in two meets in the first semester -- Nov. 3 at Russellville and Dec. 7 at Springdale, competing well in both meets.

"It's been a great season," said SSHS coach Brooke DeGaish. "Everyone has been working super hard. I'm super proud of them."

The swimmers will return to competition Feb. 2 in Russellville, followed by the district meet at Clarksville on Feb. 9 and Class 5A state meet in Russellville on Feb. 24-25.

On the boys' side, four of the Panthers' eight swimmers have qualified for the state meet in individual events: Gabe Fox (diving, 50-yard freestyle), Jakin Matchell (50 freestyle and 100 freestyle), Hayden Shimer (100 breaststroke, 200 individual medley, 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle) and Tony Wleklinski (100 backstroke and 200 individual medley).

Shimer, the defending 5A champion in the 500 freestyle, had a pair of first place finishes in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle at the Panthers' most recent meet in Springdale.

Shimer's time of 4 minutes, 58.40 seconds in the 500-yard freestyle at Springdale broke his school record, which he set as a freshman last year. He is ranked No. 1 in Class 5A in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle, according to

Fox took first in the 50-yard freestyle, just ahead of his teammate Matchell, in the Springdale meet. He is ranked No. 1 in diving and 14th in the 50 freestyle.

Matchell was first in the 100-yard freestyle in Springdale. Matchell is ranked No. 16 in both the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle.

Wleklinski is ranked 16th in the 100 backstroke.

In relays the boys 200 medley (Shimer, D'Angelo Celis, Wleklinski and Fox), 200 freestyle (Ben Wenger, Matchell, Celis and Fox) and 400 freestyle (Wenger, Matchell, Wleklinski and Shimer) are all ranked in the top five and should compete for the medal podium at state, according to volunteer coach Chris Shimer.

The Panthers are ranked fourth in Class 5A behind Batesville, Russellville and Lake Hamilton, according to, which uses a points system based on swimmer's times in each event.

On the girls side, the Lady Panthers are ranked ninth in Class 5A.

Two of the eight swimmers on the girls team have qualified for state in Addie Huebert (200 freestyle) and Emelyn Chavez (100 backstroke).

Huebert recently had a first place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke at Springdale and a second place finish in the 50 freestyle in the same meet.

She was second in the 200-yard freestyle in the Russellville meet.

Huebert is ranked No. 1 in the 200 freestyle and No. 2 in the 100 breaststroke and No. 6 in the 50 freestyle.

Chavez took second place in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly in the Springdale meet.

Chavez is ranked No. 8 in the 100 butterfly and 10th in the 100 backstroke.

Other Lady Panthers are close to qualifying for state individual competitions.

Rachel Luker is ranked No. 18 in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke, while Anna Matchell is 13th in the 100-breaststroke.

"We fully expect several other ladies to qualify for state competition," Chris Shimer said. "It's a matter of getting them into meets."

The Lady Panthers' 200 medley relay (Luker, Huebert, Chavez and Matchell) and 400 freestyle relay (Chavez, Luker, Huebert and Matchell) have also qualified for state.

"Overall both men's and women's have improved significantly since the start of the season," Chris Shimer said. "The teams practice every day and most swimmers are swimming anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 yards a day. We expect to see continued improvement as both teams gear up for state in late February."

Print Headline: SSHS swimmers off to a strong start


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