Free State swimmers cruise

Firebirds dominate invitational; LHS third in team race

Free State High’s girls swimmers are beginning to realize it’s difficult to feel upset about placing second or third in a race when the competitors finishing ahead of them are teammates.

FSHS blew away the other five schools to win its Tuesday home meet at Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center, where Firebirds occupied the top two spots in two races and the top three positions in two others.

Eliza Anderson and Carter Stacey finished 1-2 in the 200 free, while Courtney Caldwell and Sydney Sirimongkhon-Dyck went 1-2 in the 50 free.

Caldwell and Sirimongkhon-Dyck also earned the top two spots in the 100 free, and teammate Alexa Malik finished third. In the 100 back, Eliza Anderson finished first, Lucy Sirimongkhon-Dyck swam to second and Simone Herlihy was the third top-three swimmer from FSHS.

“It’s really exciting that we finally have some depth to carry us,” said Caldwell, a junior. “When we’re behind the blocks, we’re just kind of thinking, OK, 1, 2, 3, we don’t care who finishes where.”

Coach Annette McDonald said Free State’s swimmers have embraced that approach as they’ve discussed the topic.

“They are competing against each other,” McDonald said, “and if they give their 100 percent effort and they get beat by their own teammate, then we’re gonna celebrate no matter what. And we’re gonna go that much harder the next time.”

Sydney Sirimongkhon-Dyck, a sophomore who finished second to Caldwell in a pair of races, had no issue with a fellow Firebird beating her.

“I think it’s a lot more fun that way, because everyone can win together,” she said. “You do it for your team and not just for yourself.”

Free State had plenty of success in other events, too — not just the ones in which they dominated. The Firebirds’ 200 medley relay team of Lucy Sirimongkhon-Dyck, Kara Krannawitter, Cierra Campbell and Sydney Sirimongkhon-Dyck finished first, as did their 200 free relay team of Anderson, Malik, Sydney Sirimongkhon-Dyck and Caldwell, and their 400 free relay team of Campbell, Lucy Sirimongkhon-Dyck, Anderson and Caldwell.

In individual events, Campbell, a sophomore, won both the 100 fly and the 500 free.

Sydney Sirimongkhon-Dyck said all those victories should be good signs for Free State.

“Hopefully that means maybe winning state this year, but we also have next year, too,” she said. “It can only mean good things, right?”

Added Caldwell: “We’re really happy, but we still have a lot of work to do, so we can’t celebrate yet.”

McDonald enjoyed seeing so many swimmers perform strongly as individuals while acknowledging their teammates.

“I think that whole team dynamic really has had a positive impact,” the coach said, “and I still saw times drop today, because of the support they are giving each other.”

Lawrence freshman Mary Reed-Weston earned the Lions’ only first-place finish, winning the 100 breast by beating out Free State’s Krannawitter by more than four seconds.

“It was a good meet,” she said after also finishing third in the 200 IM and helping the LHS 200 free relay team finish third. “I really like the breaststroke.”

While the Lions received a second-place finish in diving from Allison Williams, it was difficult for Lawrence, which placed third in the team standings, behind Shawnee Mission Northwest, to keep up with the Firebirds.

“They have a lot of good swimmers,” Reed-Weston said. “It’s just really good competition.”