Bishop Miege coach Dennis Mueller stood atop the podium at Capitol Federal Natatorium, surrounded by his girls swim team, and braced himself for a plunge into the pool Saturday evening.
The Stags had just scored 289 points in the Class 5-1A meet, beating St. Thomas Aquinas (234) and four-time defending champion Blue Valley Southwest (210) for the first girls state title in school history.
“Guys, we won state,” said senior Cailey Grunhard, lingering in the pool after anchoring the 400-yard freestyle relay team that beat Bishop Carroll by five seconds in 3:40.66.
It was the final event of a meet that got started late on Saturday with Miege scorching Blue Valley Southwest, coming in at 1:47.16 to retain the crown in the 200 medley relay. Grunhard and her younger sister Cassie, Franceska Hernandez-Nietling and Ava Ford combined for a second year in a row to break a state record, just narrowly beating their 2016 time of 1:47.99.
“Based on the seeding when it came out I knew we had a really good shot if our relays stayed clean,” said Mueller, who’s coached the girls team for 17 years. “This has probably been my best team since Cailey came on as a freshman.”
Miege’s dominance of the Class 5-1A meet continued with Cailey Grunhard’s second-straight championships in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. Although Grunhard didn’t break records in those events for a second consecutive season, her individual victories paced Miege. Cassie Grunhard, a junior, added points with second-place finishes in the 100 and 200 freestyles.
“It’s honestly been four years in the workings,” Grunhard said. “Last season, when we got second just by a couple of points, knowing our team was getting stronger, I kind of feel like that was the point where we like, ‘Next year is our year.’ ”
Blue Valley Southwest senior Logan Johnsen won the 200 IM. Johnsen came in second behind teammate Isabelle Finzen last year, crossing the finish line nearly a second and a half later at 2:10.90. She didn’t need as much speed this year, winning the event in 2:12.33 and beating Nietling (2:14.90) for the top spot on the podium.
Johnsen secured another state title in the 100 breaststroke, clocking in at 1:06.23 to beat Aquinas sophomore Jesse Paxton and her previous state time.
Miege’s win wasn’t the only one to bring the natatorium down.
A year after falling shy of breaking the state record in the 500 freestyle by not even a second, Wichita Heights senior Katelyn Blattner inspired a raucous standing ovation in Topeka. Ahead by a lap and change, Blattner touched her final wall at the 4:55.52 mark, smoking her competition by nearly 24 seconds and beating the 9-year-old record by 2.39.
SM East falls to Wichita East in Class 6A
Crissie Blomquist stood just behind the launch pad Saturday in Topeka, drenched and cheering on Shawnee Mission East during the final race of the Class 6A girls swimming championships.
She’d gotten the Lancers’ 400-yard freestyle relay team off to a roaring start, swimming two laps in about 52 seconds to get ahead of Lawrence Free State and the juggernauts from Wichita East.
Her adrenaline, carried over from championships in the 500 freestyle and the 200 free relay, sparked SM East as it retained control of the race through the third leg. Then Izzy Smith dived into the pool milliseconds ahead of Wichita East’s Astrid Dirkzwager for the final laps, and the noise level at Capitol Federal Natatorium swelled.
Minutes earlier, Dirkzwager had beaten Blue Valley Northwest freshman Rachel Lyle by 2.28 seconds for the 100 backstroke title, touching her final wall at 55.33 seconds. The Wichita East freshman also beat Blomquist in the 200 free by nearly a half-second earlier in the meet, winning in 1:50.40.
Smith fought Dirkzwager off until they both took their final turns on the far wall. But Dirkzwager emerged just a few yards ahead in the adjacent lane and did not relinquish the lead. She reached the finish line in 3:32.11, just 2.11 seconds behind the state record and 1.15 seconds ahead of Smith.
“Wichita East kind of came out of the blue,” Blomquist said. “Izzy was great her first 75, but then Astrid caught up to her and I knew. Still, we all did great, I think.”
The Lancers had broken their school record by 2 1/2 seconds in the event, but that wasn’t enough to secure a second-straight team title. Wichita East did instead, taking advantage of a SM East team that entered the season with a group of 21 underclassmen and only a handful of swimmers who’d been part of the 2016 championship squad.
“They had a little more than us,” SM East coach Rob Cole said. “(Dirkzwager is) an outstanding young swimmer, nationally ranked. … We came into this season as an underdog, kind of swam our way up as a contender. I think we finished with great class and ended up a little short.
“For me it’s all about dropping time regardless of the place we get. There’s no shame in doing your best and somebody doing a little better than you.”
Wichita East was first with 296 points, SM East finished second with 282 and Free State placed third with 236.
Kansas City area winners
▪ 1-meter diving: Morgan Hoffman, Blue Valley Northwest, 406 points
▪ 200-yard IM: Anika Lam, Olathe North, 2:05.00
▪ 100-yard butterfly: Hailey Brull, Shawnee Mission Northwest, 56.39 seconds
▪ 500-yard freestyle: Crissie Blomquist, Shawnee Mission East, 4:56.87
▪ 200-yard freestyle relay: Shawnee Mission East, 1:38.01
▪ 200-yard medley relay: Bishop Miege, 1:47.16
▪ 200-yard IM: Logan Johnsen, Blue Valley Southwest, 2:12.33
▪ 100-yard butterfly: Cailey Grunhard, Bishop Miege, 54.12
▪ 200-yard freestyle relay: St. Thomas Aquinas, 1:42.86
▪ 100-yard backstroke: Cailey Grunhard, Bishop Miege, 55.72
▪ 100-yard breaststroke: Logan Johnsen, Blue Valley Southwest, 1:06.23
▪ 400-yard freestyle relay: Bishop Miege, 3:40.66