TOPEKA Lawrence Free State’s Courtney Caldwell popped out of the water on Saturdy in her final high school swimming relay to echoing cheers from the crowd and an engulfing hug from her excited teammates.
She had just swam the final leg of the record-breaking 400 yard freestyle relay in the Kansas Class 6A state meet at Capitol Federal Natatorium. The Firebirds finished the relay in 3 minutes, 30 seconds and secured Lawrence Free State’s first team title since 2009.
The Firebirds freestyle relay team dropped nearly 2 seconds off their preliminary time and knocked off Sunflower League foe and five-time defending champion Shawnee Mission East in the process. The previous meet record was 3:31.39.
“I cried,” Caldwell said. “That was a really good way to end my career because my last swim was awesome, and I did it with some of the best teammates in the world.”
It was the second record-breaking swim of the day for Caldwell, who passed her own mark from Friday’s preliminary round in the 100 freestyle with a time of 49.62 seconds. She was named Class 6A swimmer of the meet, and Free State coach Annette McDonald took coach of the year honors.
Teammates Cierra Campbell and Sydney Sirimongkhon-Dyck added individual titles in the 200 and 50 yard freestyles respectively to bolster the Firebird attack, and Free State swept the 200 medley and freestyle relays.
“All season they have been very tentative about overconfidence,” McDonald said. “They talked about always giving one percent more and that’s exactly what they did.”
SM East senior Rilye Fries led the Lancers to a runner-up finish with a pair of titles in the 200 yard individual medley and 100 yard butterfly. Crissie Blomquist added a 500 yard freestyle title for the Lancers.
It was the third time this season the Lancers finished second to the Firebirds, including at the Sunflower League championships.
“I know we’ve won the last five years, but I couldn’t imagine losing to a better competitor or a better team because Free State is so nice and deserving,” Fries said. “Honestly I don’t think there is anything we could have done better, and I am so happy for everyone.”
Lawrence Free State and SM East finished first and second in eight of the 12 events.
Olathe Northwest did not have any individual champions, but the Ravens completed the Sunflower League trophy sweep taking third in the team standings. They had also placed third in the league championships.
SM Northwest’s Hailey Brull won the 100 yard backstroke and Blue Valley North’s Annie Turner won the 1-meter diving event with 445.25 points.
Timberwolves take Class 5-1A
Blue Valley Southwest’s Maddie Carrigan was not sure what to expect when she transferred in from the Austin-area last year.
However, as she walks away from Topeka with back-to-back team titles and four event titles she could not wish for much more.
“When I moved, I thought it would suck, but it ended up being more special than I could ever imagine,” Carrigan said.
Carrigan won the 100 yard breast stroke in 1 minute, 7.56 seconds and contributed to the winning 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay titles. Isabelle Finzen added a 200 yard individual medley title to the mix as the Timberwolves cruised to a 201-point victory in the team standings with 379 points overall. It was their third straight team title.
Carrigan and Finzen were joined by Madison Moore, Gabbi Miller and Jacqueline Leonard for the relays.
“These girls are phenomenal to work with,” BV Southwest coach Arvel McElroy said. “Top to bottom, the 31 girls that came out have just been great.”
St. Thomas Aquinas took second and won the 200 yard freestyle relay with Laila Carter, Julia Jenkins, Caroline Backs and Holly Hanson.
Despite being Blue Valley West’s only diver this year, Payton Kisinger led the Jaguars to a seventh place finish with her record-breaking 1-meter diving title.
Kisinger scored 477.95 points, which broke a meet record set by Bishop Miege’s Kerri Pribly in 1996 of 436.70 points.
“It’s unreal,” Kisinger said. “I’ve been working really hard this season, and it is the best payoff story ever. I couldn’t even tell you I would be in this position last year. I’m really happy with my performance.”
Bishop Miege’s Cailey Grunhard bounced back from an illegal turn disqualification in the 200 yard individual medley to take the 100 butterfly title. Bishop Miege took seventh overall, while Lansing finished 15th for the best finish in program history.