TOPEKA With her final Kansas Class 6A swimming and diving state meet fast approaching, Lawrence Free State senior Courtney Caldwell turned to an old club trick to get her in the zone.
She put on some headphones, cranked up Kendrick Lamar and ended up breaking two state meet records before the day was done at the Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka.
“I got in for warmups and thought, ‘I’m feeling good today,’” Caldwell said. “It got me pumped up I guess.”
Caldwell shaved .27 seconds off her own record in the 100 yard freestyle in preliminaries with a time of 50.01 seconds and bested her seed mark in the 100 yard backstroke by more than a second with a time of 54.11 in breaking a record set in 2009 by Wichita Heights’ Bailey Beins.
“This is so special,” Free State coach Annette McDonald said. “She has a great swimming background, trains well as a sprinter and had a really nice base of yardage that you can draw from. The endurance piece is there, but you have to admit she is fast.”
With the two record-setting marks, Caldwell will enter day two of the meet Saturday as the top seed in both events. She also swam on the top-seeded 200 yard medley and 400 yard freestyle relays for the Firebirds.
Although she may be the headliner, plenty more Firebirds are bolstering the attack.
Sydney Sirimongkhon-Dyck, who swims on the 200 freestyle and medley relay squads, is the top seed in the 50 yard freestyle.
The biggest threat to the Firebirds’ state title hopes will likely come from Sunflower League foe Shawnee Mission East. The Lancers are five-time defending Class 6A state champions and are seeded first in four events after the preliminary races, but have finished second to the Firebirds both times they met this season.
Crissie Blomquist is leading the 200 and 500 yard freestyles for SM East, and Rilye Fries is first in the 200 yard individual medley and 100 yard butterfly.
Lawrence Free State and SM East are both ranked in the top three in eight of the 12 events.
“You are going to see fabulous head-to-head races tomorrow that will have the crowd cheering,” McDonald said.
Blue Valley North’s Annie Turner is leading the Class 6A divers with a score of 322.75 after eight dives. SM West’s KT Geracie, who was the Sunflower League champion, is in second with 297.70 points.
Class 6A competition will resume at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, and Class 5-1A will follow at 3:30 p.m.
BV Southwest trying to repeat in Class 5-1A
Despite returning only two seniors from last year’s Class 5-1A state championship team, Blue Valley Southwest again finds itself in a favorable position going into the final day of competition.
“The leadership of the older kids toward the younger kids has been huge this year, and I’ve just been lucky to have girls who know how to swim,” Timberwolves coach Arvel McElroy said.
One of those rare veterans is senior Maddie Carrigan, who helped the Timberwolves jump to the top of the standings after preliminary races in three different events Friday. She is leading the field in the 100 yard breast stroke and swims for each of the top-seeded 200 yard medley and 400 yard freestyle relays.
Fellow senior, Jacqueline Leonard, swims with Carrigan on the 400 yard freestyle relay and is seeded eighth in the 200 yard freestyle.
“We had some really good swims, and I am pleased with how they did,” McElroy said. “There are some races we want to improve in tomorrow, but the whole idea of today was to make sure we were seeded in the top eight if possible.”
The Timberwolves also have defending diving champion Becca Gregory still competing. She is seeded second behind Eastern Kansas League foe Payton Kisinger of BV West.