Free State High senior swimmer Julian McCafferty had a grand plan for the second-to-last home meet of his high school career.
McCafferty’s teammates delivered, as every Firebird that could racked up points while the Free State boys swimming team won seven of 12 events and kicked past Washburn Rural, 453-411, Tuesday at the Lawrence Indoor Aquatics center.
“Today was great,” sophomore Nolan Frank said. “We’ve been getting a lot of seconds and thirds and it was real nice to win at home against a team like Washburn Rural that is a state contender.”
Frank was one of the more productive swimmers at Thursday’s five-team meet. He won the 200-yard individual medley (2:10.62), blew away the competition in the 100-yard backstroke (56.74) and swam the lead leg of two FSHS relays that finished in first place.
But, like McCafferty, Frank was much more impressed with the output of the rest of the team than his own effort.
“First-place finishes are great for the stories,” Frank said. “But, really, it’s the second and third and fourth places that get the points and win meets.”
That was exactly the case Thursday night.
Leading 253-226 through seven events, the Firebirds won three of the final five races and outplaced the Junior Blues in the events they did not win.
The 100-yard breaststroke was one of many events that illustrated the Firebirds’ strength-in-numbers approach. Washburn Rural’s Alex Mahaffey won the event in 1:10.14, picking up 16 points for his team’s score.
The Firebirds countered by finishing second (Tony Libeer, 1:11.01, 13 points), third (Eric Gruber, 1:12.2, 12 points) and fifth (Eli Allen, 1:14.03, 10 points) for a total of 35 points. Rural’s next highest placers finished seventh and 10th, good for seven and three points, respectively. In that event alone, Free State’s trio outscored Washburn Rural’s trio 35-26, despite not winning the race.
“All of these guys are just improving so much all the time,” FSHS coach Annette McDonald said. “They all contributed to this win today. It really was a total team effort.”
Need proof? Junior Nick Norman shaved two seconds off his 50-yard freestyle time and Allen’s breaststroke time marked the third straight meet that he knocked a second off of his best time in that event.
The Firebirds had their share of dominant events, too. Like the 200 freestyle. McCafferty (2:08.39) won the event by more than four seconds and was followed by Dalton Munk (2:12.91, 2nd) and Will Libeer (2:18.62, 3rd).
After the meet, McCafferty talked glowingly about his teammates.
“That was great for those guys,” McCafferty said. “It was definitely not just three people winning this meet. It was the seconds and thirds and fourths. We’re all real excited about this win.”
The only disappointing part about Thursday was the team’s near-miss in all three of its relays. Free State was a half second from a state qualifying time in the 200 medley relay, less than a second from qualifying in the 400 freestyle relay and 1.5 seconds from hitting the mark in the 200 freestyle relay.
“We just need to get a little bit faster,” McDonald said. “The guys are working really hard and they’re putting in the yardage. We’re getting there.”
If McCafferty has it his way, the Firebirds will continue to score in bunches and the relay teams will hit those qualifying times next Tuesday at the team’s last home meet of the season.
“We didn’t get them today,” McCafferty said. “But that’s what we’re going for Tuesday.”