The snow was quickly falling outside, but inside the steamy Lawrence Aquatic Center the Aquahawks were heating up the water. The team gathered on Saturday and Sunday for the MAL West Championships swim meet.
The event marked the culmination of months of practicing and meets. The meet was important for the swimmers because it marked their last chance to qualify for Division 1 or Division 2 championships. The Aquahawks faced swimmers from Topeka, Wichita and Olathe.
The 12-and-under Aquahawks began Saturday morning with some fast times.
The 10-and-under girls group placed first in the 200-yard medley relay with swimmers Maddie McCaffrey, Elizabeth Padgett, Phoebe Grabill and Heather Cistola.
Ten-year-old Grabill swam third in the medley with the 50 butterfly.
"I like swimming the medley because I like the fly," Grabill said.
Grabill's teammate, 10-year-old Cistola swam the 50 freestyle in the medley said she could have improved on her stroke to help give the team an even faster time.
"I feel like I could have pulled in stronger on my freestyle," Cistola said after the swim.
Grabill and Cistola's teammates on the 200 medley relay, Padgett and McCaffrey, also pulled in some of their own individual fast times. Padgett placed second on Saturday morning in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 3:02.64. She also pulled in the third place in the 50-yard butterfly. McCaffrey placed second in the 100-yard freestyle.
Swimmers Lucy Dyck-Sirimongkhon and Erin Houk also placed within the top five, with a fourth place in the 50-yard butterfly for Dyck-Sirimongkhon and second place for Houk in the 1,650-yard freestyle.
Twelve-year-old Amber Hicks also swam Saturday morning in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:15.42 and the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:15.57.
"I missed in the fly by three tenths of a second, but I still dropped a lot in my time," Hicks said. "The fly is still my favorite stroke."
Phoebe Grabill's older sister, Reese, also competed on Saturday in the 500 freestyle and the 400 individual medley. Reese said it was the first time in three months that she swam the 500 freestyle. Grabill normally pulls in a time of six minutes in the event, but said she was eager to drop her time down to 5:38.
"If I really concentrate I think I can do it," Reese said. "This morning we warmed up with practicing long distance."
The 400 individual medley also marked Reese's first competitive entrance into the event.
"Usually you don't swim the 400 until you are 13 or 14 and I am 12, but my coach just wanted me to get some experience and time in it," Reese said.
Saturday afternoon also brought the older swimmers out into the pool as the 13 and older groups competed. Thirteen-year-old Stacey Rudman captured an early lead in the 100 freestyle and finished with a time of 56:01. Rudman said she had been working on perfecting her time and stroke in the event.
"I thought I did pretty good," Rudman said. "I practiced a lot this morning, I warmed up and stretched a lot."
Fourteen-year-old Julia Payton tackled three events Saturday with the 100 freestyle, the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke. Payton said she prepared for races by eating a lot of protein and increasing her stretch routine before swimming. She said it was worth it to swim in two of her favorite events: the backstroke and the butterfly.
"I like doing the fly because it is a hard stroke for distance swimming, and I like the backstroke because you can breathe all the time," Payton said.
Payton ended up placing sixth in the first heat of the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:27.10.
The Aquahawks all said they were looking forward to dropping times and having fun swimming with their teammates and friends.
"I like swimming," Payton said. "You can have fun while being competitive at the same time."