Olathe Although neither team posed much of a threat to Sunflower League champion Shawnee Mission East, the Free State and Lawrence High boys swimming teams waged quite a war between themselves at the league finals on Saturday at Prairie Trail Junior High in Olathe.
Through eight events, the two city schools were separated by just a point. Through 11, the margin was just 10.
However, after the scores for all 12 events were tallied, it was the Firebirds who earned bragging rights over their crosstown rivals. Free State finished in sixth place with 88 points, while LHS finished in seventh with 74.
“That’s pretty much what we’re trying to do every time we see them,” said Free State’s Ethan Fisher. “It always feels nice to beat those guys.”
Fisher contributed mightily toward the cause, finishing with two individual medals (sixth in the 200 IM and third in the 500 freestyle) and a third medal for his role on the Firebirds’ 400 free relay team that finished fourth.
Also key was Nolan Frank. Frank padded Free State’s point-total with a second-place finish in the 100 backstroke. In that one, Frank flirted with the line between second and third throughout the race. Heading into the final turn, he sat third and appeared to be headed for the bronze medal. However, at the wall, Frank slipped his hand ahead of Olathe Northwest’s Mitch Willis to finish in second place, 0.14 seconds ahead of Willis.
“I tied with (Willis) all the way out to the 100th of a point at the beginning of the season,” Frank said. “And I saw we were pretty close during the race. So I just put all I had into that last 25.”
Fisher and Frank were joined by Dalton Munk and Tony Libeer on the 400 free relay.
While the Firebirds had enough points in the middle of the pack to hold off the Lions, LHS was led by a pair of top-three finishes from sophomore Zach Andregg. Andregg took third in the 200 free and second in the 500 free. He also teamed with Kyler Thomann, Adam Edmonds and Nathan Evers to finish sixth in the 400 free relay.
“We had a really good meet,” Andregg said. “A lot of guys dropped time, even if they didn’t make the finals.”
With the league meet representing the final chance for swimmers to qualify for this year’s state tournament (Feb. 19-20 in Topeka), the Lions had hoped to get a few more swimmers into the field before the end of the weekend. They did. Evers (100 butterfly) and Edmonds (100 backstroke) eclipsed state-qualifying times in individual events and the Lions’ 200- and 400-freestyle relays both got through, as well.
“Our two goals coming into this one were to get more guys to state and to place high,” LHS coach Kent McDonald said. “And I thought we did pretty good.”
Saturday’s SFL swim finals had another interesting connection to Lawrence. Olathe East sophomore Ben Bravence, whose family hails from Lawrence, won the 500 freestyle in 4:35. That time broke the meet record of 4:39 set by 2004 Free State High graduate Alex Brundfelt, whose introduction to swimming came courtesy of Bravence’s mother, formerly Heather Green. To strengthen the connection, Bravence swam his record-breaking time in lane three, flanked by swimmers from Lawrence, Fisher in lane two and Andregg in lane four.
“I was thinking about that a little before the race,” Bravence said. “Just how my mom taught (Brundfelt) how to swim and how I had a shot at his record. I’ve been there before this season and I wanted to go faster, but I was still pretty happy.”