Portela, Ziegler spark FSHS swimming to third at state

Free State's Jordan Portela pumps his fist after winning the 200 yard freestyle at the state championships on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, in Topeka.

In Hollywood, a sequel never lives up to the success of the original. That doesn’t apply to Free State High sophomore Jordan Portela, who dominated his competition once again at the Class 6A state swimming and diving championships Saturday.

Portela repeated as state champion in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, and he swam the anchor leg in the Firebirds’ second straight state-champion 400 freestyle relay at the Capitol Federal Natatorium.

This year, he improved his times, and he broke the state-meet record in the butterfly. His performance, along with senior Jack Ziegler’s state title in the 50 freestyle, led the Firebirds to third place in the team standings, their best finish since 2005. Shawnee Mission East edged Blue Valley North for the team title.

“I was very pleased,” said Portela, who earned Swimmer-of-the-Meet honors for the second straight year. “We knew where we wanted to be, and we did what we needed to.”

The Firebirds closed the meet by shattering the state-meet record in the 400 freestyle relay, a goal they had their eyes on all year. Portela, Ziegler, senior Nolan Stoppel and freshman Evan Eskilson won the race in 3:08.07, topping the record time of 3:09.47, set by Washburn Rural last year. Free State won the race by more than five seconds.

“That was a good little cherry on top, honestly,” said Portela, who swam his leg in a swift 45.34 seconds. “All of our guys on the relay did great. It was the last event ever for Jack and Nolan, and they were all hyped and everything. I knew the other teams were coming to catch us, and we just dove in and went for it.”

Ziegler broke his own school record in the 50 freestyle with a time of 20.78 to win his first state championship, but he fell just short of the state-meet record by 0.04 seconds, which is the longest-held record at the meet, set in 1994.

“Oh my gosh, was that exciting,” FSHS coach Annette McDonald said about Ziegler in the 50 freestyle. “He really wanted that record. Four-hundredths of a second — how close was that? It was a beautiful race. His technique was great, his turns were perfect, the finish was great. I mean, what more could you ask for?”

Portela, Ziegler, Eskilson and senior Josh Terrell broke the state-meet record in the 200 medley relay, the first event of the meet, but took second place by 0.28 seconds.

It wasn’t the only tough finish for Terrell, who also placed second in the 100 breaststroke and third in the 200 individual medley. Terrell, second in the 100 breaststroke last year, fought back from offseason shoulder surgery and a seven-month layoff before the season.

“That’s the thing with swimming, it’s always so close,” Terrell said. “You’re just, like, I could’ve done this, I could’ve done that, but it doesn’t work out. … I was actually very happy with my 200 IM. But to be honest, I’m not very happy about the 100 breast. I worked pretty hard for that.”

Portela wanted to break the state meet’s butterfly record last year, but he missed it by less than a second. Once the star sophomore is determined, there’s not much that can stop him.

“He’s such a talented swimmer,” said McDonald, who was selected as the Coach of the Year. “You could see how strong he was in his 200 (freestyle). I could’ve swam him in anything, and I think he would’ve taken it.”

Eskilson took sixth in the 100 backstroke, sophomore Evan Yoder was eighth in the 100 breaststroke, and the Firebirds 200 freestyle relay — Yoder, Stoppel, Brandon Bunting and Cooper Schmiedeler — finished sixth.

Lawrence High was led by freshman Stephen Johnson, who took second in the 500 freestyle in 4:48.72 and sixth in the 200 freestyle.

“When I came into the high school season, my goal was not to break 4:50,” Johnson said about his race in the 500 freestyle. “So for me ending up doing that in the high school season is crazy. It makes me feel so good.”

The Lions took 11th place in the team standings with 70 points. Junior diver Izaiah Bowie took 11th in the one-meter dive, and the Lions’ best relay, the 200 freestyle featuring Johnson, Alex Heckman, Ellis Springe and Chase Odgers, finished 10th.

Team scores: SM East 324, Blue Valley North 321, Free State 281, Blue Valley Northwest 223, Olathe East 166, Maize 148, Washburn Rural 134, Blue Valley 126, SM South 121, Wichita East 80, Lawrence 70, Olathe Northwest 58, Derby 58, Olathe South 45, Wichita West 24, Wichita North 23, SM North 22, SM West 21, Wichita South 21, Topeka High 19, Manhattan 18, Olathe North 10, SM Northwest 5, Hutchinson 4, Wichita Northwest 2, Campus 1.

FSHS, LHS results

200 medley relay — 2. Free State (Evan Eskilson, Josh Terrell, Jordan Portela, Jack Ziegler), 1:34.39. 15. Lawrence (Alex Heckman, Isaac Springe, Chase Odgers, Ellis Springe), 1:48.92.

200 freestyle — 1. Portela, Free State, 1:40.39. 6. Stephen Johnson, Lawrence, 1:46.10.

200 individual medley — 3. Terrell, Free State, 1:56.20. 9. Evan Yoder, Free State, 2:01.96.

50 freestyle — 1. Ziegler, Free State, 20.78. 6. Nolan Stoppel, Free State, 22.10.

Diving — 9. Chad Bourdon, Free State, 404.85. 11. Izaiah Bowie, Lawrence, 402.10. 14. Eli Garcia, Free State, 384.70.

100 butterfly — 1. Portela, Free State, 49.77 (record). 9. Eskilson, Free State, 52.44.

100 freestyle — 3. Ziegler, Free State, 46.95. 15. Stoppel, Free State, 50.48.

500 freestyle — 2. Johnson, Lawrence, 4:48.72. 16. I. Springe, Lawrence, 5:22.44.

200 freestyle relay — 6. Free State (Yoder, Brandon Bunting, Cooper Schmiedeler, Stoppel), 1:32.30. 10. Lawrence (Heckman, E. Springe, Odgers, Johnson), 1:33.06.

100 backstroke — 6. Eskilson, Free State, 54.91. 12. Heckman, Lawrence, 57.15. 14. Ethan Kallenberger, Free State, 57.79.

100 breaststroke — 2. Terrell, Free State, 58.02. 8. Yoder, Free State, 1:02.65..

400 freestyle relay — 1. Free State (Eskilson, Ziegler, Stoppel, Portela), 3:08.07 (record); 12. Lawrence (Odgers, Springe, Heckman, Johnson), 3:28.17.

All-state first team — Preston Barley, Maize; Jackson Conrad, SM South; John Fritsch, Washburn Rural; Aidan Holbrook, SM East; Ryan McMonigle, BV North; Philip Musser, BV Northwest; Brian North, BV North; Jordan Portela, Free State; Michael Prekopy, Washburn Rural; Benjamin Schmatz, SM East; Ryan Sweat, SM South; Josh Terrell, Free State; Dylan Walters, Olathe East; Jack Ziegler, Free State.

All-state second team — Jamie Cohen, BV North; Sam Disette, BV North; Yousef Eldakak, BV Northwest; Patrick Hornung, SM East; Ian Hulshof, BV North; Stephen Johnson, Lawrence; Hayden Linscott, SM East; Brant Pitcairn, Olathe Northwest; Riley Roach, Wichita North; Max Stoneking, Olathe South; Colin Strickland, Blue Valley; Christian Taylor, Maize; Will Vance, BV North.

Coach of the year — Annette McDonald, Free State

Swimmer of the meet — Jordan Portela, Free State.