State swimming and diving: Free State takes third place

The Free State girls swimming and diving team finished tied for third out of 24 schools after the state championships wrapped up Saturday in Lenexa, capping off its first season under head coach Janna Skinner.

The Firebirds tallied 209 points as a team to equal the performance of Shawnee Mission East, just behind runner-up Blue Valley Northwest (233) and state champion Blue Valley North (a whopping 365).

Free State’s success on the weekend was boosted by high-level finishes in the relays, with the team’s top overall performances coming in the 400-yard free relay, with Liza Engelbrecht, Gayla Gao, Molly Nuckolls and Jocelyn Wilson finishing second in 3:38.72, and the 200 medley relay, with Engelbrecht, Helena Mattes, Gao and Wilson taking bronze at 1:48.84.

The junior Gao became the top individual finisher of any Firebird by coming in third in the 100 fly with her time of 57.64, with Engelbrecht behind her in sixth at 58.72.

Gao also came in 10th in the 500 free, with Nuckolls the event’s top Firebird at fifth (5:16.35).

Mattes turned in a pair of strong results at fourth in the 200 individual medley (2:10.52) and fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.08).

A couple of Free State swimmers finished back-to-back in the 100 back, as Engelbrecht and Wilson completed the event in fifth and sixth, separated by just over half a second.

Wilson’s sixth-place showing in the 100 free, Nuckolls’ seventh-place performance in the 200 free and an 11th-place result from the 200 free relay team of Mattes, Nuckolls, Aidyn Guy and Olivia Nagel rounded out FSHS’ performance at the Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.

The third-place showing follows the program’s fourth-ever state title last season in the final campaign for outgoing coach Annette McDonald.

Lawrence High was represented primarily by senior Emily Brandt, whose final score of 389.75 in the 1-meter dive placed her fourth in the 1-meter dive, as Olathe East freshman Irene Gettya took the state title. Sophomore Carlee Larson also participated in state competition but did not make it past the prelims in the 100 breaststroke.

The Lions came in 19th with their total of 15 points.


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