This afternoon’s state diving prelims at Hummer Sports Complex in Topeka mark the official start of the Class 6A State Swimming Championships. However, Free State High junior Trevor Hillis will be the only city diver competing.
Injured Firebirds senior Dan Krieger qualified, but won’t be available.
That makes Friday’s swimming prelims even more important for the FSHS boys, who will have to contend with deep, talented teams from Shawnee Mission East, Olathe East, Wichita East and Blue Valley North.
“I think they’re ready to swim fast,” Firebirds coach Annette McDonald said. “They’re excited, and you can tell just by their behavior.”
Free State swimmers have good reason for their enthusiasm. They are seeded No. 2 in five events, No. 1 in another and in the top five in three more.
McDonald said the Firebirds are setting their sights on winning some state championships: “But when it comes down to it,” she added, “everybody’s got to be on for all of their events.”
Senior Ben Sloan, and his top-seed 51.11 time in the 100 fly, leads the group of Firebirds gunning for state titles. Sloan also enters the 200 IM as the No. 2 seed (1:55.45), behind Shawnee Mission East’s Troy DeMoss (1:54.78), who beat out Sloan for the Sunflower League crown on Feb. 2.
Junior Canaan Campbell holds the No. 2 slot in both the 200 free (1:45.72) and 500 free (4:45.13). In both races, the Sunflower League’s 500 champion will attempt to knock off Blue Valley Northwest’s Jesse Musser (1:41.79 200; 4:43.57 500).
The FSHS 200 medley relay team (1:40.06) also holds a No. 2 seed and shares the second-best time with Sunflower champ Olathe East. Wichita East holds the top time, 1:38.15. McDonald plans to have senior Connor Munk, sophomore Josh Terrell, Sloan and sophomore Jack Ziegler represent Free State in the relay.
Shawnee Mission East’s top-seeded 400 free relay team (3:15.79) beat No. 2 Free State (3:18.04) for the league title. Sloan, Munk, Ziegler and Campbell are slated to swim for revenge at state.
Munk enters the 100 free as the No. 4 seed, Terrell is No. 5 in the 100 breast, and the Firebirds are No. 5 in the 200 free relay, with Ziegler, junior Hunter Robinson, senior Nickolas Becker and Campbell slated to compete.
The Firebirds’ other state-qualifiers are: Terrell (No. 8, 200 IM), Robinson (No. 16, 100 breast; No. 23, 100 fly), Ziegler (No. 16, 50 free), junior Kyle Yoder (No. 18, 100 breast), sophomore Nolan Stoppel (No. 20, 50 free) and Becker (No. 21, 100 free).
With so many FSHS swimmers in the mix, McDonald said her team should finish fifth or better.
“I think if we’re not in the top five, the boys will be pretty disappointed,” the coach said, adding a top-three finish isn’t impossible. “It all depends on every single person doing their part to make that happen.”
Lawrence High’s swim team will compete in four of the prelims, including all three relay events. The 100 back will be the only individual race for the Lions, with senior Adam Edmonds (No. 15) and junior Caleb Axlund (No. 24) competing.
LHS is seeded No. 18 in the 200 medley relay, No. 20 in the 400 free relay and No. 22 in the 200 free relay. Probable Lawrence swimmers for those events are: Edmonds, senior Patrick Bennett, senior Nathan Evers and junior Darren Rawlings or senior Tyler Bradfield in the 200 medley; Evers, Axlund, junior Tim Schraad and Edmonds in the 400 free; and Evers, Rawlings, Bradfield and Bennett in the 200 free.