Without a doubt, Maize would have loved to have finished Saturday’s Class 6A swim meet the way the Eagles started it — in record-setting fashion.
But a second-place finish in the 400-yard freestyle to Shawnee Mission East didn’t put a damper on the Eagles’ day.
"You can’t argue with second place with that time," senior Mitchell Wagner said. "No one should be upset with that at all, especially with what we accomplished today."
What Maize did was put its program on the state swimming map. Having never won a state swimming title in any event, Maize walked away with four gold medals Saturday — the most of any 6A school — and finished fourth as a team.
The record-setting day started with, what else, a record-setting swim. After threatening the meet record in the 200 medley relay during Friday’s preliminaries, the Eagles got it rather handily Saturday. The foursome of Wagner, Christopher Clemons, Gavin Olson and Lucas Popp finished with a time of 1 minute, 35.16 seconds that not only topped the field by more than 2 1/2 seconds but topped SM East’s 2008 record time of 1:35.89.
"When we were swimming, I kind of calculated all the times we’d have to go to get the record," Popp said. "When each of us hit our goal times, and when I dove in, I knew it was going to happen. It was a great feeling. My teammates stepped it up and I just had to get to the wall."
Popp had no trouble doing that, in the relay or his individual events. He clocked a 21.34 to edge SM East’s Grant Minick by .15 seconds for the title, and then came back and knocked off Blue Valley North’s Sihan Liu for the 100 freestyle title as well, winning by .62 seconds.
Wagner claimed Maize’s fourth gold with a victory in the 100 backstroke, handily beating Wichita East’s Brandon Shinsato by more than a second and a half in 51.39.
Wichita East nearly matched Maize’s four golds, claiming three en route to a third-place finish in the team standings. Two were somewhat expected as Jake Spitz became a double winner with victories in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly — the latter his second straight title. But the Blue Aces also got a surprise when Nate Pirner, seeded fourth in the 100 breaststroke, pulled off the upset with a half-second win.
"I thought I had a pretty good shot at it, but it was still a little bit of a surprise," said Pirner, who finished in 59.20 and won by .73 seconds.
Class 5-1A — Saturday’s 5-1A finals didn’t do anything to change Keiser Witte’s mind that he’s truly a sprinter.
However, the Winfield junior might just be a little more fond of longer distances after the performance he turned in. Before capturing the 50 freestyle, Witte easily won the 200 free. The double-gold performance earned Witte swimmer of the meet honors.
"I’ve always been more of a sprinter," Witte said. "The 200 free has always been hard for me to pace. I’ve either taken it out too hard to too slow."
After not faring as well in some of his usual specialties throughout the season — the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly — Witte decided he’d gotten a good enough handle on the 200 to go after the title at state. Witte’s time of 1:44.99 was nearly a full four seconds faster than his qualifying time and more than two seconds faster than Schmidt.
He then won the 50 in 21.53 seconds.
• If Independent’s Andrew Parker was stunned by being the top qualifier Friday in the 100-yard breaststroke, imagine how he felt after backing that up by capturing the state title Saturday.
"I just can’t believe it," said Parker, a senior whose previous best finish at state was a fifth a year ago. "I’ve been swimming for so long and I never really expected to win. It’s an unbelievable feeling."
It wasn’t easy, however. After the first 50 yards, Parker was trailing Carroll’s Alec Khoury, who had entered the state meet seeded No. 1 in the event, but struggled to qualify just sixth.
But over the last 25 yards, Parker was able to close the gap and at the finish he out-touched his city rival, winning by .07 seconds in 1:02.11.
"On my last turn, I saw I was right with him and I knew it would be a race home," said Parker, who also finished third in the 200 individual medley. "You just have to get mentally tough over that last 25 and get it done."
Khoury helped Carroll finish second in Class 5-1A for the second straight year to state champion Blue Valley.