O’Fallon Township High School’s third-place finish in the recent Illinois High School Association girls sectional swim meet was, in large part, orchestrated by the talents of senior Natalie Edwards.
The anchor of the Lady Panthers’ team, Edwards displayed her prowess in the pool by winning the 500 freestyle, joining three of her teammates to capture first place in the 200 medley relay and collecting a second place medal in another individual race.
The points the senior swimmer, the daughter of Rick and Mary Edwards. accumulated were instrumental in the final tally for the IHSA event and qualified O’Fallon for two spots in the IHSA state finals the following week.
Edwards’ effort was not a fluke. Winning races has been a staple of her swimming career as a member of the OTHS girls squad. Suzanne Gibson, the O’Fallon High coach, anticipated a stellar effort from Edwards given her consistent success in the pool over the course of her high school career.
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“Natalie has been a super leader and motivator for our girls,” Gibson said. “She has worked extremely hard to develop her talents and is deserving of the recognition she has received in swimming. Her number of medals won in individual and relay events confirms her relentless pursuit of excellence.”
“I participate in swimming because it has taught me so much over the years, and I have made my best friend through the sport,” Edwards said. “At a young age, I figured out I loved swimming through taking swim lessons at the YMCA. I then signed up for a summer swim team, the O’Fallon Breakers, at age 7. At 10, I decided I really liked it and started swimming year-round.”
“My hard-working attitude and motivation from myself and teammates have led to my success in swimming,” Edwards added. “Participating in swimming has taught me time management in all aspects of my life, as well as responsibility.”
The OTHS swimming standout considers her two state-qualifying races in the sectional as her ultimate achievements in high school.
“Winning at sectionals was always one of my goals since my freshman year,” said Edwards, who has not decided on a college, but plans to continue her swimming career in a Division I program.
“Going to state this year was a dream come true, and I was so happy that our medley relay team qualified, too. This year I got very close to the girls on the relay team, and it was an amazing experience getting to end my high-school swimming career with them and do our special handshake one last time.”