TOPEKA – As the second-place state swimming finishes continued to mount, the self-doubt could have easily consumed Bishop Carroll’s Madison Hutchison.
Second in the 100-yard butterfly as a freshman. Second as a sophomore. Second as a junior. Second in the 100 backstroke as a sophomore and junior.
The near-misses could have become maddening, especially when they continued Saturday at the Class 5-1A meet when she took second for the fourth straight year in the butterfly.
“It was wearing on me a bit and coming into this meet, I was very nervous because I knew I didn’t have another chance after this,” Hutchison said. “It kind of beats you down, but it also gives you incentive to be better.”
All the frustration and heartbreak vanished in less than a minute Saturday at Capitol Federal Natatorium as Hutchison finally got the title that has eluded her all these years. Making a charge over the final 50 yards, Hutchison overtook Bishop Miege freshman Cailey Grunhard to win the 100 backstroke and put a golden finish to a stellar career.
“I’m completely ecstatic right now,” said Hutchison, who shared swimmer of the meet honors with Shawnee Heights’ Hanna McGowan and Bishop Seabury’s Phoebe Edwards. “It’s a great way to end my high school career and I couldn’t be any happier.”
Following Friday’s preliminaries, Hutchison said that win or lose, she would be happy as long as she knew she’d done her best. It was the right thing to say, but deep down she also knew that her career wouldn’t feel totally complete without at least one state championship.
“Something would have been missing,” she admitted. “As long as I put everything into it, I would have been happy, but not as happy as I am right now.”
Hutchison couldn’t knock off Grunhard in the 100 butterfly, taking second for the fourth straight year in 58.21 to Grunhard’s winning time of 57.33. But when the two hooked up again in the backstroke, Hutchison wasn’t going to be denied.
Grunhard led after the first 50, but Hutchison powered home over the final half of the race to win in 56.91. Maize South’s Mia Gibson also came on strong to finish second in 57.43, while Grunhard was third in 57.81.
“This is pounds of icing on the cake,” said Hutchison, who also helped the Eagles’ 200 medley relay to a second-place finish and the 400 freestyle relay to a fourth.
Kayla Hennen, Gabi Biby and Tatum Hilger joined Hutchison on the medley relay and Biby, Hilger and Hannah Chadd joined her on the 400 relay.
The Heights freshmen may have held different sentiments about their performance in Friday’s preliminaries, but both shared the same feeling on Saturday – a sense of accomplishment after each captured state titles.
Blattner struck first, winning the 200 freestyle. The top seed coming into the state meet, Blattner qualified just third, nearly three seconds behind top qualifier Meg Plank of Andover.
In Saturday’s final, however, Blattner showed why she was the pre-meet favorite, winning in 1:54.41, .63 ahead of Topeka Seaman’s McKynley Larson.
“It was just qualify and then get after it today,” Blattner said. “I really didn’t push it much and that was the strategy. I was wearing my practice suit. Coming into today with this suit and ready to go, it was just go.”
Hatfield’s victory packed much more drama, as she won a hotly contested four-way battle for the 50 freestyle crown. Battling Trinity Academy’s Kendall Kilgore, the top qualifier, as well as Topeka West’s Laura Dicus and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Holly Hanson, Hatfield kicked it home on the last 25 and won in 24.23, edging Kilgore by .07 seconds.
“I was a little nervous because I didn’t swim well in prelims,” said Hatfield, who qualified fifth. “My coach said it wasn’t about prelims, it’s about finals, but I was still nervous because everyone was so fast. It was amazing and I never would have expected to beat Kendall.”
Blattner and Hatfield also teamed with seniors Kelsey Buller and Alyssa Packer to come from behind to win the 400 freestyle relay, a victory that vaulted the Falcons to a third-place team finish. Heights trailed going into Hatfield’s anchor leg, but stormed back to win in 3:45.78, edging Trinity Academy by .24 seconds.
Blattner also took second in the 500 freestyle and Hatfield was second in the 100 freestyle to Maize South’s Gibson, who was a bit shocked by her victory in 52.62, just .45 ahead of Hatfield and almost a full second ahead of Kilgore, who was third (53.56).
“I was definitely off the blocks a little bit slower than everybody and I could see them ahead of me,” said Gibson, also a freshman. “I’m a second-half swimmer, so that helped me a lot and got me up there. I was expecting (Kendall) to win because she’s so amazing and I’d been happy with second as a freshman. To win is just amazing and I didn’t expect it at all.”
Maize South finished second as a team to Blue Valley Southwest, which won its second straight title with 208 points. Maize South scored 176, while Heights was third with 172, one more than Aquinas.
In addition to a second and third from Kilgore in the 50 and 100 freestyles, Trinity got a second from Taylor Kostboth in the 200 individual medley.