TOPEKA When Lucas Popp won a pair of state swimming golds last year as a junior, it was a bit of a surprise. When the Maize senior defended those crowns this year, it wasn’t a shock at all.
After setting the Class 6A meet record in the 100-yards freestyle during Friday’s prelims, Popp couldn’t do it again Saturday. But his consolation prizes — two individual golds and a relay gold — were pretty nice.
"Honestly, I just wanted to do the best I could and have the team do the best it could, and I think we accomplished that," Popp said. "I didn’t think about records too much, I was just worried about touching the wall first."
Popp’s first race figured to be his toughest, facing club teammate and good friend Jake Spitz of East in the 50 free final. Sure enough, it was. Popp and Spitz were side-by-side the entire way with Popp just out-touching Spitz by .06 seconds in 20.99.
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He came back to win the 100 freestyle rather handily, clocking a 45.27 to win by nearly two seconds. Popp also brought the Eagles’ 200 freestyle relay from behind to a victory in 1:26.97 and nearly pulled off another comeback in the 400 freestyle relay, falling just short with a second-place showing.
The performance was enough to earn him 6A athlete of the meet honors.
"I really didn’t know what to think about that," Popp said. "I was just glad to finish on a great note."
Maize took seventh as a team, also getting two top-seven finishes from Chris Clemons (second in the 200 IM, seventh in the 100 breaststroke) and a third from Preston Barley in the 200 freestyle.
In 5A, Maize South crowned three champions. Greyson Heckman took the 100 butterfly title in 51.30, Jonathon Lavalle ran away with the 100 backstroke in 53.06 and the pair teamed with Jacob Evraets and Caleb Peterson to win the 200 medley relay in 1:40.90. The Mavericks finished third as a team to Shawnee Mission South and Hayden.
Bishop Carroll’s Will Smith nipped Hayden’s Michael Wangerin by .13 seconds to win the 100 breaststroke in 1:02.36.
Witte sets two in 5A — The goal Winfield’s Keiser Witte set for Saturday’s Class 5A 50 freestyle final was uncharted territory. Not only did he want to break his own record set during Friday’s preliminaries, he wanted to get a time no one in Kansas had achieved.
He got it. Witte was timed in 20.48 seconds to blow away the 50 free field, his 20.84 from Friday’s prelim and the state best of 20.74, set by Emporia’s Brant Peoples in 1994. That mark will still stand as the 6A record.
"This is what I wanted to do my senior year," Witte said. "Last year, my goal was to get two state championships because I’d gotten fourth in all my events freshman and sophomore year. Last year was one of my best meets and this year, it all just came together. The intensity was there, the motivation was there. You couldn’t ask for anything more."
Still, he added more. With the 50 record in hand, Witte also set the 100 freestyle mark, clocking a 45.58 to clip the old mark of 45.94 set by Blue Valley’s Walter Denton in 1988.
"I wanted to get the record and go 45 because my 100s been lacking," Witte said. "The other swimmers at my level are going 45, and that’s what I need to be doing."