It wasn’t until after the dual girls swim meet against Shawnee that Moorestown junior Maddie Waggoner realized – in speaking with her sister and recent Quaker graduate Allie Waggoner – that she had come within a second or two of beating her sibling’s school record in the 500-yard freestyle.
Maddie had surpassed the previous time in races for the Jersey Wahoos, a swim club based out of Mount Laurel, but had yet to do so at Moorestown during her first two years there. Doing so in a Quakers swimsuit was, undoubtedly, a goal she had set for herself at the start of the 2021-’22 season.
But upon getting as close as she did about halfway through the school swim season, Maddie’s older sister had a new challenge for her.
“We kind of joked around about it and she said, ‘Well, if you’re going to break my record, you might as well break it while breaking the state record as well,’’ Maggie said. “I jumped at the idea right there and said let’s scrap the goal of the school record and shoot for the state record.”
Sure enough, Maddie made that goal a reality this season after swimming a 4:45.27 in the 500-yard freestyle during the preliminary round of the Meet of Champions at GCIT, breaking both the Moorestown and Meet of Champions record.
She later won the event with a time of 4:48.86, three seconds ahead of second place, while also finishing second in the 200-yard individual medley. Waggoner was also part of relay teams for the 200-medley relay and the 400-freestyle relay that both placed at the Meet of Champions in early March.
For that, Maddie Waggoner is South Jersey Sports Weekly’s 2021-’22 Girls Swimmer of the Year.
Waggoner last competed in the Meet of Champions her freshman year; last year’s contest was postponed by COVID. Having secured a third-place finish in the 100 yard breaststroke and a fifth-place finish in the 200 yard individual medley on her last trip, both Waggoner and head coach John Battersby set their sights higher coming into her junior season.
“The great thing about Maddie is that she’s the most tenacious worker you’ll ever come across in the water,” the coach said. “She eats, drinks and lives swimming … It’s her passion. Knowing her work ethic, we knew she was in store for big things.
“We had a feeling she had a chance to win the 500 this year coming in,” Battersby added. “She swam pretty consistently, around there leading up to this year, and I knew that state record was also on her radar as well.”
Waggoner’s accomplishments this season earned her All-American status for her times at the Meet of Champions in both events, and she was also named to the U.S. National Junior Team. With her junior year over, she currently holds six school records: the 200-yard individual medley, 500-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke. 100-yard breaststroke, and part of the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Another notable aspect of Waggoner’s high-school swimming career, according to her coach, is her character and commitment to the Moorestown swimming program as a whole.
Despite scoring the most points on the team, Battersby said, Waggoner would arguably be just as deserving to be named “most spirited” or “most enthusiastic” in the program because of her willingness to help and cheer on others on her team.
“She doesn’t just bring a lot of talent to the team, but she’s also probably the most enthusiastic about the program out of all the girls on the team,” Battersby said. “She’s a great teammate and a great ambassador for our program. She’s always talking about how to get better or how others can get better or how to go after different opponents in meets.”
Although the junior season has only recently ended, Waggoner is already excited to get her senior swim season started and work on new individual and team goals.
“I’m already super excited for my senior season, because I know I have more in me and I want to do everything I can to represent Moorestown well,” she said.