If the 200-yard freestyle relay team at Heights was going to make history, it was going to come Thursday night in its home pool at the City League meet.
It’s not likely Dylan Jensen, Aidan Gantenbein, Noah Thompson and Ethan Conrady will swim together on the same relay at the state meet, so Thursday night was their chance at greatness and they delivered a dialed-in performance to win the City League championship and break the league meet record with a time of 1 minute, 28.32 seconds.
“I still think they can improve, but you can’t beat the determination from those four right there,” Heights coach Dale Heckman said. “If they go after something, they’re going to get it.”
The team was encouraged by its earlier performances that something special was in store for the 200 free relay, the ninth of 12 events.
The same four won the 200 medley relay, the first relay of the meet, in a season-best time of 1:38.46. Then Jensen reeled off a season-best 21.95 in the 50 freestyle to win and Gantenbein shaved three seconds off his season-best time in the 100 butterfly to win in 53.09.
“Before we raced, we were all saying what times we wanted to go,” said Gantenbein, who also won the 200 backstroke. “We pretty much all got what we said we were going to get. I was shocked.”
Jensen led off the race with a sub-22 second leg, then Gantenbein delivered the same in the third leg. Once they delivered on their promises, the team knew the record was falling with Conrady as the anchor.
“We knew Ethan would pull it off,” Thompson said.
“We all knew the time was coming,” Jensen added. “We kept saying it was going to happen and it did.”
Sure enough, Conrady delivered a sub-22 second leg of his own to close out the race and solidify Heights’ place in history.
Heights also holds the state Class 6A meet record, but a repeat isn’t likely to occur, which made Thursday night even more special.
“It’s so special,” said Conrady, the team’s anchor. “I’ve been wanting that record for two years now.”
While was Heights took down a meet record, it was East that won its ninth straight team championship. The Blue Aces once again overwhelmed the competition with their depth and had title performances from Hugh McPherson, who won the 100 freestyle (48.07) and 200 individual medley (1:57.70) and posted season-best times, and Jack Quah, who lowered his season-best time to 1:01.06 in the 100 breaststroke to win.
The East 400 freestyle relay team of Sam Hutchinson, Colin Hutton, Jason Ooten, and McPherson also won in a time of 3:19.41 — five-tenths of a second off the meet record.
“I feel like everyone who comes here, this is what you tell them about,” McPherson said. “This is the legacy and the beauty of swimming at East High. To be a part of nine straight is amazing and it’s an honor to keep that tradition alive.”
Southeast’s Alec Lebeda was the other star of the meet, using a brilliant final streamline to win the 200 freestyle in 1:48.55, then shaved five seconds off his personal-best time in the 500 freestyle to win in 4:47.16.
North junior Miguel Bernal, in his first season of diving, won the league title in impressive fashion with a score of 443.7 — less than eight points away from breaking the league’s nearly 40-year-old record of 451 set by Southeast’s Mark Wise in 1972.
Bernal’s season-best score is 465.2, one of the best scores in Kansas.
“The other divers always say it’s hard to be mad that Miguel just kind of showed up out of nowhere because he’s such a nice and hard-working kid,” North coach Megan Von Fange said. “I think that trampoline experience has definitely helped with the manuevering of his flips and twists. But it’s his work ethic, it’s just beyond belief.”
Von Fange said it became evident in the early in the season that Bernal would have success, but the scores he has been posting this season have surpassed even the highest of expectations for a diver with only a few months of experience.
“We knew coming in that he was going to have some natural talent,” Von Fange said. “But he has worked really hard with Chris Fleming (his diving coach) and that’s just taken him to a whole new level.”
Teams—1. East 350½, 2. Heights 276, 3. Bishop Carroll 184, 4. North 123, 5. Kapaun Mount Carmel 120, 6. Northwest 112½, 7. West 73, t-8. Southeast 56, t-8. South 56.
200 medley relay—1. Heights (Aidan Gantenbein, Noah Thompson, Dylan Jensen, Ethan Conrady) 1:38.46; 2. East (Sam Hutchinson, Jack Quah, Matt Randle, Hugh McPherson) 1:38.67; 3. Kapaun (Sean Barleen, John Klimiuk, Elliott Merck, Eli Herlocker) 1:48.37; 4. Carroll (Wyatt Iseman, Rory Smith, Brock Lubbers, Alex Richmeier) 1:48.50; 5. North (Isaac Hadorn, Alec Hughes, Will Setser, Charles Harris) 1:49.94.
200 freestyle — 1. Alec Lebeda, Southeast, 1:48.55; 2. Jason Ooten, East, 1:48.89; 3. Alec Clark, Carroll, 1:50.11; 4. Colin Hutton, East, 1:50.60; 5. Kamren Hall, Heights, 1:54.85.
200 IM — 1. Hugh McPherson, East, 1:57.70; 2. Matt Randle, East, 2:04.52; 3. Isaac Hadorn, North, 2:06.37; 4. Earl Hwang, East, 2:06.38; 5. Rory Smith, Carroll, 2:08.03.
50 freestyle — 1. Dylan Jensen, Heights, 21.95; 2. Ethan Conrady, Heights, 22.40; 3. David Garcia, West, 22.53; 4. Brock Lubbers, Carroll, 23.57; 5. Elliott Merck, Kapaun, 24.02.
Diving — 1. Miguel Bernal, North, 443.7; 2. Taylor Thompson, North, 397.9; 3. Logan Carter, Carroll, 388.25; 4. Franklin Campos, South, 345.35; 5. Wesley Ford, South, 332.85.
100 butterfly — 1. Aidan Gantenbein, Heights, 53.09; 2. Dylan Jensen, Heights, 54.08; 3. Earl Hwang, East, 56.49; 4. Jack Quah, East, 57.81; 5. Brock Lubbers, Carroll, 58.04.
100 freestyle — 1. Hugh McPherson, East, 48.07; 2. Ethan Conrady, Heights, 48.94; 3. Alec Clark, Carroll, 49.48; 4. David Garcia, West, 50.21; 5. Sam Hutchinson, East. 50.58.
500 freestyle — 1. Alec Lebeda, Southeast, 4:47.16; 2. Jason Ooten, East, 5:05.21; 3. Kamren Hall, Heights, 5:12.95; 4. Irfan Ansari, East, 5:27.78; 5. Jack Tobias, East, 5:36.33.
200 freestyle relay — 1. Heights (Dylan Jensen, Noah Thompson, Aidan Gantenbein, Ethan Conrady) 1:28.32; 2. East (Matt Randle, Colin Hutton, Earl Hwang, Jason Ooten) 1:32.73; 3. Northwest (Tyler Davis, Quillan Blessant, Chris Brown, Duncan Haase) 1:36.38; 4. Carroll (Ethan Khoury, Rory Smith, Alex Richmeier, Alec Clark) 1:37.32; 5. West (Logan Buttel, Elijah Salas, Joesef Manns, David Garcia) 1:38.39.
100 backstroke — 1. Aidan Gantenbein, Heights, 53.78; 2. Sam Hutchinson, East, 54.41; 3. Isaac Hadorn, North, 56.05; 4. Matthew Randle, East, 56.32; 5. Irfan Ansari, East, 1:01.47.
100 breaststroke — 1. Jack Quah, East, 1:01.06; 2. Rory Smith, Carroll, 1:01.96; 3. Noah Thompson, Heights, 1:030.55; 4. John Klimiuk, Kapaun, 1:04.40; 5. Carson Hager, Heights, 1:06.36.
400 freestyle relay — 1. East (Jason Ooten, Colin Hutton, Sam Hutchinson, Hugh McPherson) 3:19.41; 2. Carroll (Brock Lubbers, Ethan Khoury, Matt Harding, Alec Clark) 3:30.60; 3. Northwest (Tyler Davis, Quillan Blessant, Chris Brown, Duncan Haase) 3:35.35; 4. Heights (Carson Hager, Drake Hall, Connor Buller, Kamren Hall) 3:39.67); 5. West (Logan Buttel, Joesef Manns, Elijah Salas, David Garcia) 3:46.91.