Immediately after climbing out of the pool following her Class 5-1A 100-yard freestyle preliminary heat Friday at the state swimming meet, Taylor Kostboth sprawled on the ground behind the blocks and let out an “Ouch!”
The Trinity Academy senior was hurting. But it was a good pain.
“It hurt really bad, but I was happy with the time,” said Kostboth, who posted a 54.82 to qualify third. “I was shocked with the time, so I’m really happy with it.”
It was a bit of a different feeling for Kostboth, too. The two-time reigning 50 freestyle champion, she’d never had a quick turnaround at the state meet before.
While it only seemed natural she would go after the sprint sweep in the 100 freestyle, Friday marked the first time she’d swam the event at state.
Her reasoning was an unselfish one. Former Knight teammate Kendall Kilgore was also a freestyle sprint specialist and while the two battled each other for the 50 freestyle title the past two years, Kostboth deferred to her elder in the 100 and dabbled in other events, swimming the 100 backstroke (second as a junior, sixth as a freshman) and 100 breaststroke (third as a sophomore) instead.
“We just didn’t want to have to compete against each other in every race at state, “ Kostboth said. “We each had to have our moment to shine on our own. So did the other ones, but I’d rather done the 100 free.”
Kostboth moved up two spots from her seed position in the 100 freestyle, cutting more than two seconds to finish in 54.82, just behind top qualifier Cassie Grunhard of Miege (54.26) and Camryn Dunekack of Great Bend (54.45).
Even though she entered as the No. 3 seed in the 50, it was hardly a surprise when she claimed the top qualifying spot on Friday. She’s captured the past two state titles in the 50 and though she knocked a second off her season best with a 24.45, it’s right in line with her winning times as a sophomore (23.99) and junior (23.79).
But it’s one time that’s on Kostboth’s mind heading into Saturday’s finals.
“I’ve 23.77 written all over my room, in my bathroom, everywhere,” Kostboth said of the state-record time set by Winfield’s Kathy Echiverri in 1998 — one she came within .02 seconds of tying last year. “That’s been the main goal this season, getting that record and I think to win I’ll have to get that.”
Kostboth also anchored Trinity’s 200 freestyle relay to a fourth-place qualifying time, teaming with Zoe Gardner, Sierra Williams and Linnea Kirsten-Westgard for a 1:47.73. The same foursome also made the finals in the 400 freestyle relay, qualifying eighth following a swim-off with Great Bend after each posted a 3:58.03.
But after a weather delay interrupted her initial warmup and forced the 5-1A swimmers to wait 90 minutes before returning to the pool, Blattner instead chose a different strategy for Friday’s prelims.
“Most of the swimmers come out harder in the prelims and then in the finals, it’s a little bit slower,” Blattner said. “I tried to be just a little more relaxed, especially with the weather delay. ... I’m happy with my times. I was just going, not pacing off anyone and doing my thing, thinking about technique more so than speed.”
Then again, Blattner had such luxury. It was going to take something rather out of the ordinary for her not to finish Friday at the top qualifier in both the 200 and 500 freestyles.
The three-time defending champion in the 200 freestyle, Blattner’s seed time was nearly five seconds better than the field and her prelim time of 1:54.45 was more than two seconds ahead of Miege’s Cassie Grunhard. In the 500, Blattner entered the meet with a margin of 24 seconds and her prelim time of 5:04.92 was 15 seconds better than Carroll freshman Lexie Shelton.
When Blattner returns to the Capitol Federal Natatorium on Saturday, however, the mindset changes. While she considered getting the 200 freestyle record of 1:48.33 a long shot, her sights have been firmly set all year on the 500 mark of 4:57.91 set by Trinity Academy’s Rebecca Swank in 2008.
In winning last year’s title, she was close at 4:58.55.
“Tomorrow is go time,” Blattner said. “I’m ready, I’m tapered, I’ve been waiting for this moment since my freshman year.”
Schmidt, Tatum Hilger, Lexie Shelton and Hannah Chadd qualified second in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:47.76, six seconds behind Miege, and third in the 200 medley relay in 1:55.23. Shelton and Hilger qualified 2-3 in the 500 freestyle behind Blattner and Hilger also qualified fourth in the 200 freestyle and Shelton qualified fifth in the 100 breaststroke.
• Independent’s Madison Martin qualified third in the 200 individual medley in 2:15.66, two seconds behind Blue Valley Southwest’s Logan Johnsen (2:13.58), and third in the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.70, two seconds behind Johnsen. Teammate Anna Wickham qualified eighth in the 500 freestyle.
• Collegiate’s Addison Squires made the finals in the 50 freestyle (sixth) and 100 butterfly (eighth).
• Kapaun’s Elizabeth Mitsch qualified fourth in the 100 backstroke and sixth in the 100 butterfly and teammate Katherine Baldessari qualified eighth in the 100 freestyle. The duo also teamed with Annabelle Brown and Amanda Le to qualify fourth in the 400 freestyle relay.
• Trinity’s Kirsten-Westgard qualified eighth in the 200 freestyle.
• Heights’ 200 freestyle relay team of Blattner, Megan Buck, Selena Howard and Madison Jensen qualified sixth.