It wasnÃ¢ÂÂt his first-ever victory that surprised Free State High swimmer Seth Alford, but rather his time.
The seniorÃ¢ÂÂs 500-yard freestyle mark of 6:08.45 wasnÃ¢ÂÂt his best, but not far from the career marks he was setting at the end of last year.
Ã¢ÂÂIt felt great because it was a really good time, especially in the first race of the year,Ã¢ÂÂ Alford said.
AlfordÃ¢ÂÂs top time provided the FirebirdsÃ¢ÂÂ only individual winner Thursday at Lawrence HighÃ¢ÂÂs Knox Natatorium, but a strong showing by the Free State squad easily helped the Firebirds to a season-opening quadrangular victory with 357 points.
Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission South tied for second with 289 points, while a young LHS team finished with 241.
Ã¢ÂÂThat really shows one of the strengths of this team,Ã¢ÂÂ FSHS coach Annette McDonald said of her teamÃ¢ÂÂs depth. Ã¢ÂÂWhile we only had one winner, we had a bunch of guys that were right there.
Ã¢ÂÂThe guys were really excited with how well this opener went.Ã¢ÂÂ
Things werenÃ¢ÂÂt quite as sweet for the Lions, though.
After finishing sixth at state last year, Lawrence opened its season with nearly half its squad swimming at the varsity level for the first time.
Ã¢ÂÂIt was a good first meet,Ã¢ÂÂ LHS diving coach Ryan Adams said. Ã¢ÂÂA lot of them didnÃ¢ÂÂt know what to expect. There was some nervousness, but it was a learning experience.Ã¢ÂÂ
Neither of the LionsÃ¢ÂÂ divers showed nerves. Then again, John Gatti and Nick Leet are the LionsÃ¢ÂÂ leaders.
The two finished 1-2 when Gatti won the diving event with 279.35 points and Leet finished with 271.40.
Ã¢ÂÂOur divers were really ready to get out there and get going,Ã¢ÂÂ Adams said. Ã¢ÂÂYou could tell the past couple of practices were kind of dragging. They were raring to go.Ã¢ÂÂ
So was Alford, who said he was somewhat surprised how his time had held up since last season.
Ã¢ÂÂI mean you work at trying to keep about the same time over the different 100 yards of the event, but to stay pretty close the complete way is satisfying,Ã¢ÂÂ he said.
What was satisfying for McDonald was how well things went for her younger swimmers.
Ã¢ÂÂLast time this year, we had about half of our swimmers out there for the first time, but today they were finishing near the top,Ã¢ÂÂ she said. Ã¢ÂÂThat kind of talent could really help us this season as we continue to improve.Ã¢ÂÂ
And how does Alford top his own personal success?
Ã¢ÂÂStart getting ready for state,Ã¢ÂÂ he said with a smile. Ã¢ÂÂThatÃ¢ÂÂs the goal everyone started working toward today.Ã¢ÂÂ