The Shawnee Mission East 200-yard medley relay team set a school record in the preliminaries of the Sunflower League girls swimming and diving meet two weeks ago.
In the finals, Free State responded with a school record of its own and edged out SM East for first place in the event.
The Firebirds and Lancers are separated by five hundredths of a second heading into today and Saturday's Class 6A state girls swimming meet at the Hummer Sports Complex in Topeka. Preliminaries start today at 2 p.m., and the finals will begin Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
"East is going to come out and want to kick our butt, especially after what happened at league," FSHS senior Katie Swank said. "I've always loved relays. It's the most team-oriented that swimming gets."
The Free State lineup likely will start with Heather Clark (backstroke) and continue with Swank (breaststroke), Katie Sloan (butterfly) and Morgan Flannigan (freestyle).
Competition between the Firebirds and Lancers started earlier in the season, when the two had a dual meet. Free State won the meet handily. SM East responded by winning the league meet, where Free State finished second.
"Our goal is to be in the finals the first day, then go for it the second day," Free State coach Annette McDonald said. "We want to be at the top and go for the win in any and every event we're competing."
Individually, Swank also will compete in the 100 free and 200 free. She said she'd like to finish in the top four.
"It's an all-out sprint," Swank said of the 100. "In the 200, it's more sustained sprinting, and I can't do that as well as in the 100."
Lawrence High fans will want to keep an eye on senior Chelsea Dirks-Ham, who enters state with the third-best time in the 100 butterfly and the fourth-best time in the 100 backstroke.
"We want her for sure to be in the championship heat of both events for Saturday, then be ready to really blast it," LHS coach Kent McDonald said.
Free State and Lawrence High combined to qualify four individuals for the 500 freestyle. Flannigan enters the event with the second-best entry time. The Firebirds also will swim Whitley Jackson and Adrianne Black. Lawrence High sophomore Erina Houk will swim the event as well.
Houk said she's developed a new strategy for swimming the 500.
"I used to save my energy in this event, but then I'd get out of the pool, have all this energy left and say, 'Dang, I could have gone faster,'" Houk said.
Houk has made considerable progress from her freshman year, when she swam the 500 in 6 minutes, 42 seconds. She will enter this year a full minute faster, at 5:36.54.
While it might be unrealistic for Houk to win the event (16th-best entry), there's no questioning her desire to hustle in the pool.
"If you can pull yourself out of the pool, you didn't go fast enough," Houk said. "I would much rather have nothing left than regretting it and saying I could have gone faster."
l City entries, page 7C