Fresh off a sixth consecutive Eastern Kansas League title, Blue Valley North boys swimming and diving coach Derek Berg said his Mustangs were champing at the bit for a chance to defend their Kansas Class 6A state title.
They made the most of their first day at the Capitol Federal Natatorium on Friday, posting top times in two relays and an individual event to set up a possible repeat when competition resumes at 10:30 a.m. today.
“They have been a mentally tough group,” Berg said. “We had a couple of swims I wish went better, but all year long they have stepped up and given it everything they have.”
Berg said the Mustangs can take some confidence from their previous success in coming back to win on day two like they did at the EKL Championships.
Part of that resiliency has hinged on a trio of experienced swimmers in Will Vance, Brian North and Ryan McMonigle. North, the lone senior of the group, is the defending champion in the 50 freestyle.
“My upperclassmen have provided really good leadership this year, and I credit them for helping me build the depth that we have,” Berg said. “They have really showed the guys what it takes. They have worked hard and set the pace by example.”
The Mustangs have also gotten a push from senior Jamie Cohen and sophomore Sam Disette, who helped McMonigle and North take first in the 200-yard medley relay finals.
Shawnee Mission East, which placed second in Class 6A last season, is also working with a depleted senior class, and the Lancers have not let that hold them back either.
They are coming off their 12th consecutive Sunflower League title despite only returning two seniors — Patrick Hornung and Benjamin Schmatz.
Schmatz has some added responsibility as the only Lancer left from their state title run in 2012.
“He wants to leave something to the program,” Lancers coach Wiley Wright said. “He was the only freshman when we won state the last time, so he remembers that and wants to pass that along to the other teammates.”
Schmatz is currently in the lead for the 100-yard breaststroke, and freshman Aidan Holbrook is pacing the 500-yard freestyle.
“They put themselves in position to come out tomorrow and contend,” Wright said. “For them to be in that position and be that young is pretty good.”
Lawrence Free State will look to improve its third-place finish from last year with Jack Ziegler and Jordan Portela taking the lead in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, respectively. Portela is the defending champion in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly.
The diving title will likely come down to a battle between Olathe North’s Brant Pitcairn and Shawnee Mission South’s Jackson Conrad. Pitcairn beat Conrad for the Sunflower League title and has an 11.1 point edge coming out of Friday’s semifinal round.
Class 5-1A: Miege focusing on improving
Although it does not look like Bishop Miege will repeat as state champions in the Kansas Class 5-1A meet, coach Dennis Mueller is enjoying the ride with his young Stags.
“I am so pleased with my young team and their performances,” Mueller said. “I didn’t imagine that we would swim as well as we did. They worked hard, and I am looking forward to the future with them.”
Louie Carter is leading the charge with fourth-place seeds in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 yard freestyle. He also helped the 400-yard freestyle relayt team qualify for the finals.
Blue Valley Southwest, which finished third last year, advanced to the finals in seven swimming events including the 400 freestyle relay. The Timberwolves are seeded second going into the finals and trail Wichita Heights by just .49 seconds after preliminaries.
Bonner Springs freshman Ryan Downing has set the table to possibly win two individual titles. He is first in the 500-yard freestyle and second in the 200-yard freestyle.
Blue Valley West’s Daniel Fecteau, who won the Class 6A diving title the last two seasons, is in the lead with 442.95 points after eight dives. Bishop Miege’s Jacob Stockton is a distant second with 296.75 points.