By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- When Brenda Hallbauer entered her daughters JaLynn and Kay Gieseke in YMCA swimming lessons when they were 6 months old, little did she know it would be the start of budding athletic careers.
"They started taking lessons in the babies class through the Y, where a parent goes in with the baby so they aren't afraid of the water," Hallbauer said. "So they were about 6 months old for their first swim lessons. They progressed through all of the levels of the Y.
"I guess I get that from my mom. My mom taught lessons, and we all took swim lessons because she thought it was important that we knew how to swim."
The Giesekes learned to do far more than simply stay afloat.
JaLynn, who is two years older than Kay, is currently swimming for Division I St. Louis. Kay, meanwhile, is about to wrap up a standout swimming career for Hannibal before she heads off to join Division II Drury's powerhouse program next season.
Kay Gieseke, along with three other Hannibal girls, will compete Friday and Saturday at the Missouri state swimming and diving meet at St. Peters, Mo. Gieseke will swim as an individual in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 freestyle and join Taylor Bennett, Emily Wilcoxson and Tessa Bieniek in the 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay.
Gieseke also qualified for state in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle events, but Missouri State High School Activities Association rules limit swimmers to two individual events at the state meet.
Gieseke won state titles in 2010 and 2011 while paired with her sister, Meredith Voss and Rebekah Land -- now swimming for Division I Nebraska -- in the 200 freestyle relay.
This year, Gieseke has a good shot of winning an individual title. She's seeded second in the 50 freestyle with a time of 24.47 seconds.
"I've worked really hard to get where I am," Gieseke said, "and being at the top is just that much more rewarding."
Gieseke also can boast being at the top of the Hannibal record board in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. She broke her sister's record in the 200 on Saturday with a time of 1:57.27, besting JaLynn's mark of 1:59.04.
JaLynn still holds school records in the butterfly and as part of relays. The Giesekes' younger brother, 'Lliott, also swims and recently completed his freshman season on the Hannibal boys team. Hallbauer coaches both the boys and girls teams.
"It's a big family sport," Gieseke said. "(Swimming is) a part of me. It's just kind of like a bad habit I can't get rid of."
Gieseke started swimming competitively with the Hannibal Hurricanes club team at age 6. She still swims with the Hurricanes, whose season is underway now and will continue through April.
In going to Drury, she'll get the opportunity to compete at the highest level. The Panthers have won eight Division II national titles, with the last coming in 2011, after previously winning three NAIA titles.
"We're excited about her moving to that point, because I think she has a lot more untapped talent, and she just needs another program to bring that out of her," Hallbauer said.