The heavy hearts from East's girls swim team could be seen all around the Northwest pool Thursday night. From the swim caps every swimmer wore in the last 400 relay race to East coach Joe Hutchinson standing along side the pool with his hands on his head as the final race finished, the feelings for the Choi family were there.
East swimmer Yuna Choi died in a wrong-way accident on the Kansas Turnpike in March. Hana Choi, Yuna's twin sister and another East swimmer, survived, but their mother and 9-year-old brother also died.
East's motivation, used throughout the year, culminated at the City League meet with East winning its second consecutive team title, without a single race winner.
"The amount of work, not just physical but emotional, these girls put in is amazing," Hutchinson said. "They've done so much, I'm so proud of them. They are resilient. They pulled through when us adults can't."
Never miss a local story.
Northwest's Nikki Daniels blew away her competition. Daniels broke the City League meet record in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:03.75. Daniels also won the 200 IM in 2:08.92, just .18 seconds shy of another City League record.
Kara Aaby also won two races for the Grizzlies, who finished second as a team. Aaby won the 100 fly in 1:01.81 with the help of a great finish.
"The last 25 hurts extremely bad but you just have to kick back into the training you've been doing so you can push it and push it," Aaby said.
Aaby also won the 100 backstroke in 1:01.50. Daniels and Aaby tied with Southeast's Emily Chesser with 32 points for the meet.
"Pointwise, Kara and Nikki are pivotal to our team success, but emotionally and motivationally they are very important to our team too," Northwest coach Sacia Quattlebaum said. "They provide that motivation and teamwork that we need on our team."
Kapaun finished second as a team
"It's a lot more than we expected, the girls really stepped up," Kapaun coach Chris Erickson said. "We're pretty good all across the board, from the top to the bottom. That's where the meets are decided."
McKenzie Strother won the 50 free for North, but it was close. Cassandra Bonds, from Southeast, and Kapaun's Sarah Clark finished within a half-second.
"It puts pressure on you, your 50 has to be perfect, otherwise you will get second," Strother said. "It helps a lot that pressure, even though you feel sick before, it makes you go faster."
But the meet belonged to East and the Choi family, who received a $2,000 check at the conclusion of the meet.
"These girls know that if they stick together and work as a team, we're going to end up just fine," Hutchinson said.
1. East 288, 2. Kapaun 247.5, 3. Northwest 208, 4. North 171.5, 5. Southeast 137, 6. Heights 105, 7. Carroll 88, 8. South 66, 9. West 18.
200 medley relay—1. Northwest (Aaby, Daniels, Stienbach, McPherron) 1:53.62; 2. East 1:55.56; 3. Kapaun 2:01.34. 200 free— 1. Chesser, Southeast, 1:57.25; 2. Silverthorne, North, 2:04.81; 3. McGreevy, Kapaun, 2:06.23. 200 IM— 1. Daniels, Northwest, 2:08.92; 2. Kraemer, North, 2:17.27; 3. Withers, Southeast, 2:22.30. 50 free— 1. Strother, North, 25.45; 2. Bonds, Southeast, 25.77; 3. Clark, Kapaun, 25.90. 1 mtr diving— 1. Roncone, South, 350.10; 2. Piland, Heights, 302.35; 3. Mosley, Heights, 279.15. 100 fly— 1. Aaby, Northwest, 1:01.81; 2. Ong, East, 1:03.59; 3. McGreevy, Kapaun, 1:04.04. 100 free— 1. Silverthorne, North, 55.54; 2. Bonds, Southeast, 56.24; 3. Shinsato, East, 57.71. 500 free— 1. Chesser, Southeast, 5:20.30; 2. Strother, North, 5:28.02; 3. Livingston, East, 5:51.95. 200 relay— 1. North (Kraemer, Hutchison, Silverthorne, Strother) 1:43.22; 2. Kapaun 1:47.51; 3. Southeast 1:47.73. 100 back— 1. Aaby, Northwest, 1:01.50; 2. Withers, Southeast, 1:02.80; 3. Ong, East, 1:05.44. 100 breast— 1. Daniels, Northwest, 1:03.75; 2. Kraemer, North, 1:10.39; 3. Spitz, East, 1:10.75. 400 relay— 1. North (Kraemer, Hutchison, Silverthorne, Strother) 3:48.63; 2. Northwest 3:48.83; 3. East 3:51.67.