Like most any high school team, East’s girls swimming team lost some key seniors.
But the Blue Aces still return enough talent to maintain their elite status in the City League and likely will be favored to win their fifth straight league championship.
Coach Joe Hutchinson, in his 15th season, credits East’s depth for its success.
“It’s like a conveyor belt,” he said. “Somebody leaves, but somebody else will step up.”
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After capturing City League, the Blue Aces moved on to state, where they posted a respectable ninth-place finish.
“They really did a nice job,” Hutchinson said of last year’s squad. “It’s difficult because of the Kansas City teams. One coach told me he has 80 kids come out.”
This poses a formidable challenge for East, but it’s one that Hutchinson relishes.
“It makes it more competitive and really raises the bar,” he said.
The performance at state exceeded his expectations, Hutchinson said.
“I was a little surprised we ended up that far ahead (of Manhattan),” he said. “I was hoping we’d finish in the top 10, which we did.”
Underclassmen played a key role in the Blue Aces’ finish a year ago. Caitlyn Goodman anchored East’s 200 medley relay squad as a freshman, and then-sophomore Olivia Tran swam the opening leg for a squad that finished fourth. Also in that race, freshman Sammie King swam for senior Madelyn Ong during the preliminaries while Ong had senior tests.
Those three and seniors Dina Vu and Natalie White, who also have state-tournament experience, will form a strong nucleus for East.
All five benefited from the state meet, Hutchinson said.
“At your first state meet, you experience a level of competition and emotion that’s hard to go through,” he said.
He said he especially liked the relay performances at state by his underclassmen.
“In the individual races, they were a little rattled, but in the relays they just had wonderful splits,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson is looking at the big picture – a better finish at the state meet.
“We need to get some more girls who were not at state, to state,” he said. “… That is one of the nice things about the consistency in our program. The girls are ready to take that leadership role.”