TOPEKA — Gina Cernohous couldn't believe her eyes.
"I was shocked," the Andover Central junior said after looking at the board following her 200-yard individual medley preliminary Friday at the Class 5-1A state swimming and diving championships. "I knew it was a good swim, but I didn't think it was that fast."
Cernohous' time of 2 minutes, 13.81 seconds not only was a career-best by more than three seconds, it also made her the fastest qualifier in the event for today's finals at Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka.
Cernohous had entered the prelims seeded third with a best of 2:17.57, but made a huge drop in time and vaulted right to the top of the qualifying, besting top-seeded Kristin Strecker of Hayden by almost a second (2:14.79).
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"I've been training really hard this season, and we've been tapering this past week," Cernohous said. "It was really exciting and I felt so good. I hope I can do it again."
Cernohous was part of a strong showing by Wichita-area swimmers during Friday's 5-1A prelims. Wichita Independent enjoyed the best day of all, as the Panthers qualified at least one finalist in all but three events and had five entries post the fastest qualifying times in their respective events.
There was the expected, in the form of freshman Chesley Kilgore.
The top seed in both the 50 and 100-yard freestyles, Kilgore left no doubts that she will be the one to beat in both events today. Kilgore was the only swimmer to break 25 seconds in the 50 free, going 24.60, and then came back to smoke the field in the 100 free as her time of 54.41 was more than two seconds faster than anyone else.
"I was way nervous," Kilgore said. "I've never been to a state meet like this before, so it was kind of scary. (Today) will be the test."
It wasn't much of a surprise either that teammate Brooke Brittain qualified first in the 100 backstroke. The sophomore came in nearly two seconds faster than anyone else.
Kilgore and Brittain teamed with Kelsey Eklund and Allie Griffin to uphold their top seed in the 400 freestyle relay.
Eklund, however, provided a nice surprise for the Panthers early in the meet. Entering with the second-fastest time in the 200 freestyle, Eklund cut nearly three seconds off her season-best and qualified first in 1:55.78, almost a second faster than top-seeded Monica Dudley of St. Thomas Aquinas (1:56.76).
Kapaun also pulled off a bit of a surprise in the ultra-tight 200 freestyle relay — four teams finished within less than a second of each other.
Trinity Academy's Emily Knocke qualified for the finals in two events, fourth in the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke. Collegiate's Anna Horner was eighth in the backstroke and Andover Central qualified both freestyle relays for the finals.
Class 6A — It was an oversight in the state program, but Nikki Daniels didn't take it personally.
Instead, the Northwest junior simply went about making sure it didn't happen again.
Daniels' winning time of 1 minute, 2.29 seconds in the 100-yard breaststroke last year wasn't good enough to break the state record held by Trinity Academy's Caroline Bruce (1:01.03). But when the state meet was split this year, Bruce's record went into the books for Class 5-1A, leaving Daniels' time as the fastest by a Class 6A swimmer.
Only the record listed in the program wasn't Daniels'. Instead, it was listed as a 1:03.70 by Emporia's Katie Yevak, who happens to be Daniels' club coach.
The oversight could have bothered Daniels, but it didn't.
Daniels didn't quite match her winning time from a year ago, but her time in Friday's preliminaries of 1:03.01 was good enough to ensure her spot in the record book. It also was easily the fastest of the day as no other swimmer in the event came within four seconds of Daniels.
"It didn't really bother me because if I didn't go that time again this year, I wouldn't be happy anyway," Daniels said. "I'm just trying to improve on my personal best."
While pretty much a lock to repeat her 100 breaststroke title, Daniels will have her hands full in her bid for double gold. Entering the prelims as the top seed in the 200 individual medley as well, Daniels qualified second with a time of 2:09.08. That was more than two seconds off the fastest mark of Washburn Rural's Sammie Schurig, who dropped three seconds off her seed time with a 2:06.78.
Daniels was one of two Northwest swimmers to qualify for the finals in two individual events. Teammate Kara Aaby just made it in the 100 butterfly, qualifying eighth in 1:01.30, just .03 seconds faster than the top consolation qualifier. She also qualified sixth in the 100 backstroke in 1:00.82 and teamed with Daniels, Haley Stienbach and Jill McPherron to qualify sixth in the 200 medley relay.
The only other city swimmer to earn a pair of finals berths was Southeast's Emily Chesser. After not making finals in either of her events last year as a freshman, Chesser switched to new events this year and it paid off as she was fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:57.34) and fifth in the 100 backstroke (1:00.72).
Campus' Lizzy DeWitt also earned a finals berth in the 100 breaststroke, qualifying eighth.