Seabury’s Ella Blake wins 5-1A state title in 200 free, takes 2nd in 500 free
TOPEKA — Bishop Seabury junior Ella Blake knew her seed times in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles at the Class 5-1A state swim and dive meet weren’t indicative of the caliber of swimmer she is, and she proved that during Saturday’s finals.
Blake showcased her stamina in the long-distance events by winning the 200 free and taking second in the 500 free. Her winning time of 1:56.38 in 200 free blew her marks from prelims and the regular season out of the water. Blake clocked in at 1:58.91 in prelims and had a seed time of 2:02.35.
“My best time was faster than the time I had got this season, so I think my training just really caught up,” Blake said.
Bishop Miege senior Cassie Grunhard and Kapaun Mt. Carmel freshman Claire Conover also broke the two-minute barrier in the 200 free in prelims, but Blake didn’t leave any doubt that the state title would be hers. Blake pulled away in the second half of the race to beat out Grunhard by nearly three seconds.
“Long distance freestyle is cool because it’s really focused on rhythm more than just kind of vaporizing the water,” Blake said.
Another strong finish nearly gave Blake an additional gold medal. Bishop Carroll sophomore Lexie Shelton led by nearly a body length with 50 meters to go, but Blake made it interesting as both swimmers reached for the final wall. Shelton held on to win it with a time of 5:09.15, while Blake followed in second at 5:09.33.
“I really wanted to beat her and I almost did, but she was really good and consistent the whole way,” Blake said.
Blake was the lone competitor for the Seahawks, but she singlehandedly gave Seabury a 17th-place finish. The 37 points from Blake earned her a spot on the all-state first team.
“It’s just crazy,” Blake said. “It’s really exciting.”