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Archive for Friday, February 21, 2003

Firebirds, Lions set for state swim meet

Free State hoping for best finish ever; LHS has high hopes for pair of divers

February 21, 2003

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Free State High swimming coach Annette McDonald doesn't see why her boys team's record-breaking season has to stop this weekend at the state meet.

"I think they are really, really looking toward this goal," said McDonald, whose team begins its quest for the best finish in school history at 2 p.m. today during preliminaries at Kansas State University Natatorium in Manhattan. Finals will begin at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

"We're probably not deep enough to win it because there are so many good teams," McDonald said, "but we definitely have some individuals who can win events, as well as relay teams.

"We're for sure thinking about a top-10 finish and who knows from there."

If Free State -- which has been bursting records at an alarming rate, including nine shattered marks two weeks ago when it claimed third place at the Sunflower League meet -- finishes higher than 10th place, it will top its previous best at state.

In the 1998-99 season, just Free State's second year, the Firebirds finished 10th, while Lawrence High followed in 11th place.

But Free State has finished lower each season since -- including two years ago when the Firebirds didn't even score.

Despite Free State's 22nd placing last year, FSHS junior Chris Wolff sees no possible setbacks in Free State's path.

"We've been swimming well all season," Wolff said. "If we go out there and each individual does what they are capable of doing, then we're going to having some individual titles and a near-the-top finish."

Free State has four swimmers in two events and three relay teams.

Juniors Alex Brunfeldt and Wolff, and sophomores Anthony Portela and Chris Sellon are the Firebirds' individual swimmers and also comprise Free State's 400-meter relay team.

McDonald isn't sure how she'll mix and match those swimmers with her alternates -- Bret Robinson, Brian Sears, Nathan Schriner and Spencer Flannigan -- in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays.

Lawrence High entered this past week with three competitors and only hopes of individual crowns, but the Lions' spirits got a lift Tuesday.

Coach Alicia Jackson learned from the Kansas State High School Activities Assn. that her 200 freestyle relay team of senior Eric Kawagashi, juniors David Abreu and Ian Legler and sophomore Zach Colwell qualified for state because of their consideration time.

"They had been practicing all week to support the other guys, and in case something like this happened," Jackson said. "But after they found out, everyone was just so excited."

LHS -- which is the last team to win state since Blue Valley North began its run of five straight titles in 1998 -- is led by divers John Gatti, a junior, and sophomore Nick Leet.

The pair finished 1-2 in the diving portion of the Sunflower meet for the second straight season. Gatti, who edged Leet both times at league, finished third at state last season.

"I think we both have a really good shot at winning and maybe even going first-second," Leet said. "Our competition with each other in practice and meets should pay off."

Abreu is the Lions' lone swimmer, competing in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly.

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