Dedication. Work ethic. Attention to detail. Those are the words and phrases used by those close to the Blue Springs High School Girls Swimming & Diving program. And it really shouldn’t be a surprise, either. You don’t win seven state titles and post five runner-up finishes during two distinct eras without those traits running rampant through your program.

The eras of 1985 to 1996 and 2004 to 2009 are two of the most successful swimming & diving eras for one school in Missouri history. Two different coaches garnered similar results, combining for 33 individual state titles and 14 relays state championships. That commitment to excellence is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct the Blue Springs High School Girls Swimming & Diving Eras of 1985-1996 and 2004-09 as part of the Class of 2023.

Swimming isn’t an easy sport. There’s a certain dedication, a certain level of ‘want-to’ that comes with being a competitive swimmer on any level. Both head coaches Bill Shalley (1985-96) and Robert Sturman (2004-09) expected their student-athletes to display that championship level of desire. And they did.

“Coach Sturman and Coach Shalley instilled a commitment to excellence for anyone that was a part of the program,” said current Blue Springs head coach and former Wildcat Kevin Bigham. “We always had a big team and almost every kid was committed to doing two-a-day workouts. Just trying to be the best we could be. There’s no doubt that dedication led us to have as much success as we had.”

Bigham was a member of Blue Springs boys teams from 2004-07 and had a front row seat for the girl’s success, including the teams which won consecutive state titles in 2005 and 2006 under Sturman. It was the dedication to the little things by the two coaches that stood out most to Bigham.

“They had excellent attention to detail and were great motivators,” Bigham said. “After that the results took care of themselves.”

And the results were remarkable. A total of 16 state top four finishes during the combined 18 years of the two eras. But not only did Blue Springs have tremendous ‘buy in’ from its student-athletes, the Wildcats had every ounce of support they needed.

“The support was incredible,” said Greg Goodman, diving coach from 1984 to 1994. “The bar was always high. The support we received from the parents was incredible. We did what we had to do to be successful. I got what I needed from the school, too. It was a group effort.”

During a period when Blue Springs won state championships in baseball, cross country, football, soccer, softball and track & field, the swimming & diving team stood out.

“I had the highest respect for the swim program and the girls that were here,” said former football coach and athletic director Tim Crone. “This group of girls, as far as work ethic, I’ve never seen anything like it. They were in the pool at 5 a.m., they’d go to school at 7:20 and then practice after school until 7 p.m. Academically, the girls were always on the honor roll and had top-notch grades.”

During Shalley’s tenure, individual success was also significant. The 1985-1996 era saw seven individuals combine for 17 state titles and five relays win state, as well. The individual state champions were Jeniel Purvis, Carrie Lalli, Cindy Taylor, Amy Jo Roberts, Wendy DeTray, Wendy Lawson and diver Kristi Stone. DeTray was responsible for seven titles alone covering the 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke and the 200 medley.

That trend continued with Sturman in charge and featured four individuals who captured a combined 16 state titles and nine relay state titles. The individuals were Tarin Corwin, Molly Brammer, Eleanor Prewitt-Thomas and Abby Nelson. Brammer won four state titles in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle.

Sturman says the girls’ team was committed, but a little extra boost didn’t hurt.

“After our first state title in 2005, once they got a look at our championship rings, it was game on for the girls,” he said.

As much as coaches often receive notice for a successful team, Sturman says in the case of Blue Springs, all credit should go to the athletes and their parents.

“The success came from the hard work of the swimmers and the hard work and support of the parents,” he said. “The coaching staff worked so hard and wanted the very best for the kids and the team. But it always started with the athletes.”