Kansas’ best female swimmers will descend on Topeka’s Capitol Federal Natatorium from Thursday-Saturday for the Class 6A and Class 5-1A championships. See kshsaa.org for a full schedule.
1. A fifth straight championship?
For four consecutive years, Blue Valley Southwest has dominated the Class 5-1A championships. With swimmers Madison Moore, Isabelle Finzen and Gabbi Miller leading relay teams to first and second place finishes, last year BV Southwest scored 312 points to beat Bishop Miege for the team title.
All three were seniors. This weekend, it’ll be up to Wisconsin-Green Bay signee Logan Johnsen, who won the 100-yard breaststroke and was second in the 200-yard IM in 2016, and junior Madison Batkiewicz to hold Miege off. Batkiewicz swam the third leg on the first-place 200-yard freestyle relay team a year ago.
Freshman Sarah Graven could provide a boost in the 50-yard freestyle, where she enters the tournament seeded first with a time of 25.42 seconds, and a trio of first-year divers could rake in points for Southwest, too.
2. Grunhards guiding Miege
For the majority of BV Southwest’s reign, Miege had never been in the mix for a title of its own. Then Cailey Grunhard won a pair of events with record-setting times and swam the third leg on the 200-yard medley relay team that beat Southwest by nearly three seconds for gold.
Grunhard, a Notre Dame signee, will surely have her eyes on shaving down the state records in both the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly for a second year in a row.
Her younger sister Cassie, meanwhile, will also lend a hand trying to guide Miege to its first girls swimming title. Cassie Grunhard, who anchored the 200-yard medley relay team and swam the first leg on the champion 400-yard freestyle relay team, enters the 100-yard freestyle with the highest seed time (53.75).
3. Another freshman 100-yard backstroke champion
Olathe East sophomore Mackenzie Bravence, who placed fourth in the 100-yard backstroke by 4 seconds last year, might have had a clear shot at gold this year. But defending champion Katerina Savvides of Wichita East will no longer be her only competition. Blue Valley Northwest freshman Rachel Lyle’s seed time of 58.52 is better than Bravence’s and she could give Savvides, a freshman last year, a run. Lawrence Free State freshman and fourth-seeded Ainsley Krug might also vie for the title.
4. Is Shawnee Mission East strong enough to repeat?
The SM East Lancers are poised to break records this weekend. In beating Lawrence-Free State by 37 points for the Sunflower League Championship two weeks ago, their 400-yard freestyle relay team cut down its 2016 state championship time by almost an entire second.
University of Kansas signee Crissie Blomquist should have no trouble repeating as a 500-yard freestyle state champion after winning the league race in 4:58.95, two seconds off her finish at state. But the 200 free might be tougher to defend with Wichita East freshman Astrid Dirkzwager in the mix. She’s seeded ahead of Blomquist with a time of 1:51.57. Blomquist, who won last year in 1:50.83 and was two seconds shy of tying the state record, qualified with 1:52.46.
5. These returning Class 6A champions
Shawnee Mission North junior Joely Merriman won the 100 free in 52.32 seconds last year. SM Northwest’s Hailey Brull (Nebraska-Omaha signee) was the 100-yard butterfly champion, beating SME’s Emma Linscott (58.01) by 1.16 seconds. Blue Valley senior Morgan Hoffman scored 115.2 points in the finals to win the 1-meter dive with 401.55 points.