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Veteran trio leads way for St. Clair swimmers

Veteran trio leads way for St. Clair swimmers

All three were high school valedictorians

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The St. Clair Country Club swim team has a tradition of outstanding leadership from its last-year swimmers, and the 2010 season was no exception.

Jamie St. Eve, a 2009 graduate of Notre Dame High School in St. Louis, and Jack Cunningham and Ali Rawlings, who are both 2010 Althoff graduates, were all valedictorians at their schools. They are also among the top team's top swimmers in the 15-18 age group.

"All three have been swimming since they were 5 or 6 years old and came through our program and developed a lot of talent," said St. Clair coach Bob Kaiser, whose squad placed fourth in the Midwest Swim Conference Meet, held July 24 at O'Fallon. "We not only have good swimmers here, but we have smart kids and that says a lot about our swim team.

"For two years, Jamie has been one of the instructors for our Lane One program (for beginning swimmers). They develop all the young kids from 3 years old on up and it's basically the feeder system for our team.

"You can find Ali and Jack waiting after practice to help the younger kids. It's a real pleasure to have kids like that, who not only care about themselves but the whole team."

St. Eve started swimming for St. Clair when she was 5 and is a former winter swimmer for Clayton Shaw Park.

"I took last summer off, but I wanted to swim my last year," said St. Eve, who turns 19 this month. "We've been doing a lot of things for the team like designing shirts and leading cheers, so it's been a lot of fun. Not only is swimming a great way to exercise and compete against other teams, all these people on the team are like family."

St. Eve will be a sophomore at Clemson University, where she is a member of the club swim team.

"It's always been a part of my life and Bob (Kaiser) and (assistant) Margaret (Dahlmann-Riley) have been such great coaches," St. Eve said. "It's been such a great experience that I want to keep doing it.

"I've been coaching the little kids and I love it. It's a great summer job."

Rawlings, meanwhile, swam for Althoff as a freshman but was injured and missed the next two seasons. She didn't swim as a senior.

"I had compartment syndrome in my calf and had to have lateral release surgery on my right knee," Rawlings said. "Breast stroke used to be my best stroke, but now I can only do it in the IM (individual medley). I can't do it in the 100 (meters).

"(The injury) happened in volleyball, which I had played all of my life, including club volleyball since I was 11. I had to stop playing after the surgery, but I can still do summer swimming."

Rawlings, who was involved with a variety of clubs and extracurricular activities at Althoff, credits summer swimming as a reason for her success.

"There's a lot of dedication on this team because no one quits on Bob," said Rawlings, who was St. Clair's high point swimmer last year. "You start swimming when you're really young and you'll keep on swimming until you're 18. There's a tradition of giving speeches at our banquet where everyone talks about their memories here and how great it's been.

"I'm definitely going to miss it. I'll probably come around and watch a few meets next year and come to the pool."

For Cunningham, the St. Clair experience goes beyond receiving ribbons and medals for swim meets.

"Swim team is one of the things that has taught me dedication and it's really carried over into my academic pursuits," said Cunningham, who will attend the University of Notre Dame. "You work so much harder when you're working with Bob and you can apply that to other things. It's made me a better person in that respect."

Cunningham played tennis for four years at Althoff and used to play golf. He swam two years for the Crusaders and spent the past winter with the YOSI (YMCA of Southern Illinois) Seals.

"I actually made it to the state championship with YOSI, which has been a highlight for me," he said.

All three swimmers have brothers or sisters on the team. St. Eve's sister, Jana, 17, is one of the top 15-18 swimmers in the conference. Rawlings' sister Blair, who turns 16 this week, is also a standout in the 15-18 age group.

Cunningham's sister, Caroline, was the top conference swimmer in the 8-and-under girls breast stroke this season. Sister Shannon (15) and brother Ryan (16) returned to the team this year after missing the past two seasons.

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