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Archive for Saturday, May 17, 2008

FSHS swimmers rise to the occasion

Free State High's 400-yard freestyle relay team of, from left, Morgan Flannigan, Chloe Portela, Molly Albrecht and Reilly Moore, chats after qualifying first in the event. The same four also led qualifying in the 200-yard medley relay at the first day of the state meet Friday in Topeka.

Free State High's 400-yard freestyle relay team of, from left, Morgan Flannigan, Chloe Portela, Molly Albrecht and Reilly Moore, chats after qualifying first in the event. The same four also led qualifying in the 200-yard medley relay at the first day of the state meet Friday in Topeka.

May 17, 2008

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— Free State High swimmers Reilly Moore, Molly Albrecht, Chloe Portela and Morgan Flannigan don't have that many meets under their swim caps as teammates.

But you sure couldn't tell Friday at the preliminaries of the state swimming and diving meet at Hummer Sports Park, where the Firebirds' foursome combined to turn in the day's top times in the 200-yard medley and 400-yard freestyle relays, positioning them as the favorites to win state in the two events at today's finals.

And to think the team considered switching up its relays before state to get more swimmers involved.

"We talked about it, and I left it up to the girls," FSHS coach Annette McDonald said. "They decided they wanted to go for those relays, and I had to respect that. When their hearts are into it and they really care, that's when they go for it."

The girls opened the meet with the medley relay and, less than 10 minutes into the state tournament, logged a top seed for the finals, set a school record by more than three seconds and eclipsed a national All-American time with their 1:49.08 finish.

"That definitely started the meet off the right way," said Moore, who joined the other three on both relays late in the season.

As if diving into the meet with a first-place finish wasn't impressive enough, the same four girls decided to go out with a bang, putting the finishing touches on Day One by taking first in the final heat of the final event, the 400 freestyle relay.

"It's amazing that we have so much depth to be able to do this," said Portela, a freshman, as the quartet cooled down after the final race. "Doing well in the relays just gives our team so much spirit and gets the whole team pumped up."

Consider the Firebirds on cloud nine after Friday's performance.

While the relays were the highlight of Friday's action, they weren't the only events where the Firebirds left their mark. In all, Free State qualified for the championship finals in six events. Do well there, and the Firebirds might have a shot at bringing home a team title.

"There were a couple of places where we fell short of what we thought we'd do," McDonald said. "But other teams did, too, so I think we're still right there."

While all four girls emphasized the importance of the team, each shined individually, as well. Albrecht will compete in the championship finals of the 200 free and 100 backstroke, an event in which she earned individual All-American honors with her 57.23. Portela finished right behind her teammate in the backstroke with a 58.67 and also will vie for a state title in the 100 butterfly, where she finished third (57.62) in the prelims.

"The backstroke is incredibly competitive," McDonald said. "You've got five girls vying for that No. 1 spot. That's going to decide the meet right there."

Like Albrecht and Portela, Flanningan also will swim four events today, the two relays and the 500 free and 200 free, where she took second (5:04.99) and third (1:54.32), respectively.

Moore missed out on qualifying for today's finals in a third event by .08 seconds, as she swam a 25.24 in the 50 free and took ninth.

Lawrence High wasn't as fortunate as the Firebirds. The Lions did not qualify any swimmers for the championship finals, but will climb the starting blocks for the consolation finals in five events.

Sarah Schwartz and Elle Weber will compete in four consolation finals; both qualified for two individual events and teamed up on the LHS relay teams that qualified 15th in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.

For both girls, the atmosphere and magnitude of the state meet was a bit overwhelming.

"Just to make it to Saturday is awesome," Weber said. "It stinks coming close to the finals and not getting in, but it happens all the time."

Despite not qualifying any girls for the finals, LHS coach Kent McDonald said he was proud of the way his team competed Friday.

"It was a good day," he said. "About all of the girls dropped their times. The problem was other girls did, too."

It also was a good day for a couple of city divers. Lawrence High's Mallory West and Free State's Dianna Torgerson advanced to today's semifinals, surviving a cut from 32 divers to 20 after the first round.

West was third in the opening round, with 178.6 points, and Torgerson was 20th with 136.8.

Today's action begins at 10, when those 20 divers compete for the right to advance to the finals, which will run as the sixth event of the afternoon's 12-event schedule. The swimming finals are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.

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