Blue Valley North’s Derek Berg had never coached an Eastern Kansas League girls swimming and diving meet quite like he did this year’s event.
His Mustangs won in team title, but he only visited the medal stand once to award gold medals to his 200-yard freestyle relay team on Saturday at Blue Valley Northwest. That relay finished in 1 minute, 44.16 seconds and consisted of Mallory McKee, Marjie Trussell, Grace Brimacombe and Olivia Vance.
“It’s fun as a coach to see, because to be able to win a meet like that with only one first place means that everyone is on and swimming well and contributing,” Berg said. “Even the kids who weren’t scoring — since we have a third heat — were still swimming their best times. They were contributing momentum and enthusiasm.”
The Mustangs displayed depth by finishing in the top three in seven additional events — the 200 medley relay, one-meter diving, 100 freestyle, 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke and 400 freestyle relay.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Berg pointed to the leadership of Vance and Delaney Cross as big factors for his team’s success. Vance placed second in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle. Cross, meanwhile, was third in the 100 butterfly and fourth in the 200 individual medley.
The Mustangs also got a boost from Annie Turner, who finished second in one-meter diving. She was the top Class 6A placer at the meet.
Now, Blue Valley North turns its attention to the Kansas Class 6A state meet, scheduled for May 22-23 at the Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka. The Mustangs are looking to knock off five-time defending state champion Shawnee Mission East for BV North’s first title since 2006.
“We have a lot of talented individuals, but I don’t think we have really been looked at as a solid team,” Berg said. “We have gone into every meet not expecting to win, but swimming our hearts out and we’ve come out winning a dual or placing higher in other meets than we expected.”
BV Southwest, which will split off to defend its title at the Kansas Class 5-1A state meet, finished just seven points behind BV North for second place in the EKL. The Timberwolves were led by Maddie Carrigan, who won the 200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke and contributed to the winning 400 freestyle relay. Teammate Madison Batkiewicz, who also swam the 400 freestyle relay, added an individual title in the 500 freestyle.
BV Northwest placed third with an individual title from Katie Thill in the 50 freestyle and a title in the 200 medley relay.
Blue Valley did not have any first-place finishes, but finished fifth in the team standings. BV West followed in sixth, sparked by Alyssa Davis’ 100 freestyle title and Payton Kisinger’s one-meter diving title.
The Grunhard sisters, Cailey and Cassie, led Bishop Miege with three individual titles between them. Cailey won the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly. Cassie won the 200 freestyle to pace a sixth-place finish team finish.
Sunflower meet: SM East places second
Even though the Shawnee Mission East girls swimming and diving team only won one gold medal at the s Sunflower League meet, coach Rob Cole is confident his Lancers have what it takes to contend for their fifth consecutive state title.
The Lancers placed second at the league meet behind Lawrence Free State, which won nine of the 12 events, by a score of 368-334 on Saturday at Chisholm Trail Junior High. It was the Firebirds’ first league title and it ended an 11-year streak for SM East.
“They have an outstanding team and they were just a little bit more prepared than we were going into this meet,” Cole said. “We are right on track.”
SM East’s lone champion was sophomore Crissie Blomquist, who won the 500-yard freestyle in 5 minutes, 2.95 seconds. She also placed second in the 200 freestyle and swam on the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams.
Blomquist, along with freshmen Hannah McPhail and Emma Linscott, showed some underclassman depth for the Lancers. McPhail and Linscott helped pace a third-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay.
“I was really happy with how my underclassmen swam because they stepped up and — as a whole — they had great composure being in the biggest setting so far of their swimming career,” Cole said. “They passed with flying colors for the first mental challenge of a league meet. It is very mental for these kids and I though they handled themselves very well.”
Cole said the Sunflower League meet and, especially the competition from Lawrence Free State, should be good preparation as the Lancers head into the Kansas Class 6A state meet May 22-23 at the Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka. The two teams have met three times already this season.
“It was almost like a mini state meet because three fourths of the depth of the state is probably in our league,” Cole said. “It gives us a chance to challenge ourselves and look at the things we need to do better to be faster. If you don’t have that challenge on a regular basis, the kids tend to get complacent. It makes them work harder.”
The 913-areas’s only other champion was Shawnee Mission West’s Katie Geracie, who won the one-meter diving event. She scored 374.55 points to top Lawrence Free State’s Haley Johnson’s 362.75 score.
Olathe Northwest, which placed third at the Sunflower League meet, was led by a runner-up finish from its 200 free relay team. London Durr, Gillian Schwartz, Brooke Bogdan and Lauren Pugh finished in 1 minute, 41.61 seconds. Schwartz and Pugh teamed up with Taylor Badowski and Brenna Gaul to place third in the 400 freestyle relay in 3 minutes, 42.07 seconds. Durr, Badowski, Pugh and Gaul were third in the 200 medley relay in 1 minute, 53.33 seconds.
Lawrence placed fourth at the league meet and was followed in the standings by SM Northwest, Olathe East, SM West, SM South, Olathe South, SM North, Olathe North and Leavenworth.