The time was right, in different ways, for Logan-Rogersville to celebrate the college commitments of two of its athletes last Wednesday.
The Wildcats held a ceremony to commemorate swimmer Cabrini Johnson, who signed with Missouri State, and Libby Kish, who is off to play volleyball at Rockhurst University.
Johnson admits that not only did she want to do it among a smaller batch of athletes, but also after she finished her career as a Wildcat. “I wanted to see how this season went; it was a wait-and-see how I swim,” she said.
The answer couldn’t have been much better. Johnson not only won gold on Feb. 21 at the St. Peters Rec-Plex, she set a Class 1 state record of 1:03.23 in the 100-yard breaststroke. In another of four all-state finishes there, she also capped off the weekend with a 5:14.51 time in the 500-yard freestyle.
With Maddie Atwood, Elise Evans and Emily Floyd, the quartet took seventh with all-state finishes in the 200-yard medley and 200-yard freestyle, additionally.
“I really wanted to win state again, and not in a selfish way, but in a way that it was a goal I’d set for myself to be a two-time state champion,” Johnson said, referencing last year’s gold in the same event. “It was really emotional, too, being my last high school swim ever after four years, and knowing the 100-breast was my last race was enough reason to leave it all out there.”
Oddly, Johnson said that her record-breaking win felt like “my worst swim ever” after finishing. “Then I looked at the clock and saw I dropped a second,” she said. I can’t really gauge [my time] in the water. Sometimes the ones that feel like the worst are your best times. In basketball or volleyball, you know if you’re on your game or not. Swimming is a funny sport. I looked up and the time was flashing, which meant not only win but a record.”
“Last year was a shock as a junior. I don’t know what made this year’s different...it just felt more realistic [of a goal] I think.”
The sport has transitioned from a social springboard of sorts to now a tremendous opportunity for Johnson. She called her eighth-grade and freshman years “hit or miss,” that she had plateaued.
“I got really serious probably sophomore year after getting second at state, and then I had the mentality to come back junior year as fast as I could to take first,” Johnson said. “But I think it was kind of not taking it seriously [that helped], using it as a way to make friends and network, and the working hard came naturally. “When I wasn’t thinking as hard about it and stopped worrying about my times, it came easier. It still feels weird to think that when I backed off things got more serious.”
It’s been a dream for Johnson to swim in college since she was six or seven years old. Missouri State reached out last summer, and a commitment came quickly after with it being a “no-brainer” to continue at the next level.
“Throughout the year, I was thinking about what I could do to make Missouri State proud,” Johnson said. “It was nice to know where I’m going to go so early. It’s close to home, and I couldn’t be more excited to swim in college.”
For Kish, playing collegiate volleyball was less about the where than the if.
“I started off not quite sure if I was going to keep playing,” Kish said. “I think I was just exhausted. I hadn’t stopped playing for eight years in a row. I played back-to-back seasons [in school] from August to November, then club from November to July. I was kind of burned out.”
In August, she went to Rockhurst for a camp, then received an unofficial offer in November, followed by an official one two months later. But Kish needed some time to think on it, something the Hawks coaching staff was understanding of.
She admitted it was still difficult when two of the other top three leaders in kills for the Wildcats last fall, Birdie Henderson and Claire Taylor, had their signings commemorated in November
“It’s really hard seeing your teammates doing that because you know that’s [the decision] you’re coming to, so you’re kind of envious, but also excited for them,” Kish said. “Yes, I wanted to be done with the process, but I’m glad I didn’t make the decision then. It probably wouldn’t have been the decision that I [ultimately] went with.”
That decision eventually came on Valentine’s Day.
“I came home from a really tough practice that night –– I’d played really well, I didn’t want to stop at 10:30 at night –– and decided I wasn’t done playing, that I wanted to continue,” Kish said. “That next morning, I called the coach and said, ‘I’m done, I’m ready to play for you. Let’s go.’ I love Rockhurst, the coaches, and the girls.”
L-R head coach Tammy Miller called Kish “a big part of our success the last four years,” over which the Lady Cats have 140 wins, including the state title in 2018 and a runner-up finish this season.
“I have asked Libby to play outside, middle, right side,” Miller said. “I never asked her to set or be a DS, but I guarantee she would have said yes. We’re so proud of Libby and excited that she’s going to Rockhurst.”
Bryan can be followed on Twitter @BryanEversonMF.