TOPEKA — As a freshman competing in his first state meet Friday at Topeka's Capitol Federal Natatorium, East's Jake Spitz could have been a little psyched out.
When you consider he was lined up next to top-seeded Grant Rogers of Washburn Rural in their 100-yard butterfly preliminary heat, Spitz might have been really psyched out.
Instead, his reaction was the opposite.
"Actually, it really psyched me up," Spitz said. "Winning state as a freshman would be really big for me and that's my goal. I just wanted to go out and see what I can do against guys like that. I like competition, it's always nice to have."
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Spitz did indeed rise to the occasion, outracing Rogers to the finish in their heat to claim the overall fastest qualifying time. Spitz finished in 51.34 seconds, .32 seconds ahead of Rogers and .56 seconds faster than Olathe East's Ben Scheffer.
"That was a lot faster than my goal time," said Spitz, who set a personal best by more than a second. "I really just wanted to make the (Junior Nationals) cut (of 51.89). That just came out of nowhere. I was really happy about that. It should be a great race (today) and I'll give it the rest of what I've got."
Spitz also qualified fourth in the 50 freestyle in 21.99, .50 seconds off the top time of 21.49 by SM East's Clay Finley.
Maize enjoyed a big first day in Class 6A, beginning with its 200 medley relay team posting the top qualifying time. The foursome of Mitchell Wagner, Taylor Rice, Jared Roberts and Lucas Popp had entered with the fourth-best seed mark, but clocked a 1:38.40 to edge Blue Valley North by .15 seconds and Washburn Rural by .12 seconds.
Roberts, Rice and Kaden Diskin each added a pair of top-eight qualifying individual swims, Popp and Wagner had one each and the Eagles also got their other two relays into the championship finals.
Heights' Ian Cullinan momentarily had the fastest qualifying mark in the 100 backstroke when he finished in 52.65. Instead, he settled for second as Olathe East's Scheffer broke the state record with his qualifying swim of 51.42.
North's Logan Lassley also put himself in the gold medal hunt, qualifying second in the 50 free in 21.86.
Wichita East's Jake Seamster-Davis finished sixth in the Class 6A diving, which concluded Friday. Seamster-Davis scored 357.45 points.
Class 5-1A— As soon as David Berry emerged from the pool following his 100-yard backstroke heat, the Trinity Academy sophomore was met by his coach.
And while he didn't exactly get an earful from Bruce Van Bebber, Berry knew Van Bebber wasn't completely thrilled — even though Berry had just posted the fastest qualifying time in the event.
"He wasn't upset, but he just wanted me to save something for the relay, too," said Berry, who had to turn around two events later and swim the lead-off leg on Trinity's 400 freestyle relay. "I'm not sure what my split was, but I think I did that, too."
Van Bebber also might have hoped that Berry didn't fully tip his hand for today's backstroke final. Entering Friday's Class 5-1A preliminaries, Berry was seeded second in the event behind Salina South's Bryce Kampfe.
In today's final, however, Berry will be the favorite after clocking a time of 56.06 seconds, which was nearly two seconds ahead of Kampfe's heat-winning time of 57.82.
"I told him I was going to go fast," Berry said. "I knew I had it in me. I wasn't really trying to send a message, I just wanted to swim my hardest and see how it went."
Berry, who also qualified third in the 100 butterfly, was one of two city swimmers to post the fastest qualifying time in their events on Friday in the 5-1A meet — the first year Class 6A and 5-1A have been separated. While Berry's position might have been a bit of a surprise, it was hardly a shock that Wichita Independent's Christian Kilgore was fastest in his two individual events.
Kilgore was far and away the top seed in both the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke and did little to think he won't sweep both titles today. Kilgore's qualifying time of 1 minute, 56.30 seconds in the individual medley was nearly seven seconds ahead of Newton's Jonathan Wilks (2:03.25) and his time of 58.83 in the breaststroke was well ahead of Wilks' time of 1:00.20.
"Even having that much of a lead in both of my races, I still come in with a competitive mindset," Kilgore said. "I'm still trying to swim my own race and create a fast environment. I don't really worry about the competition as much as normal, but (today) will be different. I'll try to go my best times."
Kilgore placed third in the breaststroke last year at state when all the classes were combined. Had the two been together this year, he would have qualified third in the 200 IM and second in the breaststroke.
So he viewed the split with mixed feelings.
"It feels a little different, not like it has the past two years," Kilgore said. "It was a lot crazier, a lot faster, a lot more adrenaline. This year it's different for me because my team has a lot more opportunities to score points and I'm looking forward to the team aspect a lot more than the individual. I'm going to push myself as hard as I can to see how fast I can go.
"The winning part is good and something I've always dreamed about, and hopefully I can do that (today). But the competition I love and it's pushed me to be where I'm at today."
Hutchinson's Robby Fee blew away the fields in both the 200 and 500 freestyles in 5-1A. Fee clocked a 1:46.28 in the 200 free to best the field by more than four seconds and then posted a 4:48.77 in the 500 free, which was 21 seconds faster than his closest competitor.