Varsity Kansas

East’s Madison Allen, Katerina Savvides qualify well at 6A swimming

As case of the just-misses Friday at the Class 6A state swimming championship might have weighed heavily on East’s Madison Allen and Katerina Savvides.

Instead, it may just serve as the impetus for one or both to come away from Saturday’s finals with a state title in hand.

Both Allen, a junior, and Savvides, a freshman, came up just short in posting the fastest qualifying times in their individual events during Friday’s preliminaries at Capitol Federal Natatorium. Allen was .05 seconds away from the top time in the 100-yard freestyle, while Savvides was .19 off the fastest mark in the 200 individual medley and.27 off in the 100 backstroke.

Yet neither seemed fazed by their close calls.

“I think it’s good to try and get the top seed, but where I’m at is good,” Allen said. “I’ll just race the girl next to me tomorrow and see where we come out. I think today was good, but I can improve some things on my technique. There’s always something to improve and I look forward to fixing tomorrow and see where it goes.”

Allen, who placed second in the 100 freestyle last year to four-time champion Courtney Caldwell of Free State, improved her seed time in the 100 by almost a half-second, posting a 53.32 that left her just off the top time of 53.27 by Shawnee Mission North’s Joely Merriman. Allen went 52.45 in last year’s finals, though, and if she can recapture that form, she’ll force Merriman to better her seed time of 52.94, which was the best in the state this year.

Allen also qualified third in the 50 freestyle with a time of 24.73, which was just .01 behind second qualifier Brenna Gaul of Olathe Northwest, but trailed top qualifier and defending champion Sydney Sirimongkhon-Dyck of Free State by more than a half second (24.10).

Savvides, meanwhile, was seeded No. 1 in the 100 backstroke coming into the prelims and improved her time by more than a half-second with her qualifying time of 56.81. But Shawnee Mission East’s Sarah Allegri cut a full second off her seed time and took the top qualifying position with a 56.54.

Earlier, Savvides narrowly missed the top time in the 200 IM, turning in a 2:11.49 to finish just behind Lawrence’s Emily Guo, who went 2:11.30.

“I’m definitely satisfied with how I did,” Savvides said. “I knew (Allegri) was supposed to go faster than she had been, so I wasn’t too upset with coming in second to her today. I’m so excited for tomorrow and cutting a little bit more time. I’m not as worried about places as I am about doing my best.”

East junior Aiden Chan also turned in a second-place qualifying mark, though wasn’t as close to the top qualifier as her teammates. The 2014 state champion in the 100 breaststroke, Chan fell short of defending that crown last year and will have to make a big drop on Saturday to track down Topeka High’s Elena Almoguera, who was the fastest qualifier by nearly two seconds in 1:06.85. Chan’s time was 1:08.66.

Chan, Savvides, Allen and Janis Hwang will also be in the hunt for the 200 medley relay title, qualifying second in the event. The Blue Aces relay time of 1:50.57 was just .17 second behind top qualifier Shawnee Mission East (1:50.40).

The foursome of Allen, Savvides, Julia Whitfield and Hannah Balch also qualified second in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:43.83, four seconds behind SM East’s 3:39.60. Chan, Whitfield, Hwang and Balch narrowly missed a spot in the finals in the 200 freestyle relay, qualifying ninth in 1:46.41, just .15 away from the eighth and final championship berth.

Trinity teammates qualify 1-2 – The question didn’t confuse Trinity Academy’s Kendall Kilgore and Taylor Kostboth.

Instead, the Knight teammates simply weren’t quite sure the correct way to answer it.

“Ummm, ummm,” both responded when asked who would win the 50-yard freestyle state title Saturday at the Class 5-1A state swimming meet, clearly put on the spot after they had qualified 1-2 in the event during Friday’s preliminaries.

The two are such close friends neither really wanted to come out and predict a victory. One thing both could agree on, as long as it’s one of them, they’ll both be happy.

“I’m happy with whoever wins it,” said Kostboth, who qualified first in 24.14 seconds, .38 ahead of Kilgore’s runner-up time of 24.52. “I’m hoping 1-2 no matter what. That’s what will get our team the most points.”

It’s not the first time the two will duel for the 50 title at state. Kostboth won last year’s showdown to claim her first state title, turning in a sub-24 to win in 23.99. Kilgore was third, but came back later in the day to win the 100 freestyle and join her teammate as a champion.

“The 50, that’s our race,” Kilgore said. “She’s so talented and it’s fun to race against her. We just push each other throughout the race and we’re really supportive with each other about it. It’s cool.”

Last year, both entered the 50 finals chasing top qualifier Holly Hanson of Aquinas, who finished second, and Topeka West’s Laura Dicus. This year, the Trinity teammates were a clear-cut 1-2 in qualifying with Independence’s Lexi Carr a distant third at 24.94 and Aquinas’ Laila Carter fourth in 25.01.

While taking last year’s title would seem to be a huge confidence boost for Kostboth in Saturday’s final showdown with her teammate — Kilgore, a senior, will swim at Air Force in college — the junior said it had almost the opposite effect.

“It actually gives me no confidence at all; it gives me more pressure,” Kostboth said. “I think I put more pressure on me than anything else. Someone could come up and win out of nowhere. I’m just worried that we get 1-2, that’s all that matters.”

Kilgore will have her hands full defending her 100 freestyle title, qualifying second behind Miege’s Cassie Grunhard. Kilgore knocked nearly three seconds off her season-best time with a 53.78, but it wasn’t enough to top the time of 53.61 turned in by Grunhard, a sophomore. Both were well ahead of third qualifier Mia Gibson of Maize South (55.17).

“The pressure’s kind of on for me, but for the most part I’m going out there to give it my all,” said Kilgore, who won in 53.08 last year. “I’m happy with my swims today and I don’t have any regrets.”

Kostboth also qualified fifth in the 100 backstroke in 1:02.01 and the two teamed with Sierra Williams and Meg Perez to qualify fourth in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:51.08.

Blattner on track for double — Last year, Heights’ Katelyn Blattner was just a ball of stress. And it had nothing to do with being the defending state champion in the 200 freestyle.

Instead, it had everything to do with a fractured elbow suffered prior to the state meet that potentially jeopardized her chance for a repeat.

“It was just so stressful,” said Blattner, who successfully defended her title. “This year, there’s just so much less stress. It’s been a lot better and I just feel so much smoother in the water. I have a few more expectations this time around.”

Going after a three-peat in the 200 freestyle is one of them and Blattner positioned herself firmly for a third straight title in the event during Friday’s preliminaries. The top seed entering the meet, Blattner didn’t quite match her best time of the season, but her 1:55.30 was good enough to make her the fastest qualifier by a second and a half over Miege sophomore Cassie Grunhard (1:56.88).

For good measure, Blattner also qualified first in the 500 freestyle — an event she took second in as a freshman before last year’s elbow injury forced her to the 100. The battle for that title will be a strong one with Blattner’s time of 5:09.21 a little under two seconds faster than defending champion Brooke Dreiling of Andover Central (5:10.90) and two seconds faster than Seaman’s McKynley Larson (5:11.32).

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Blattner said of the race. “My best time’s just under five minutes and I’m hoping to get under that mark. They’ll push me to get there and it will be fun.”

Dreiling wasn’t challenged in winning the 500 title a year ago, cruising to the win by more than 11 seconds. But she knows Saturday will be a different story, one she hopes has the same ending.

“I’m excited for it and I’m going in with a determined mind set ready to race,” Dreiling said. “I feel confident in my abilities and I was able to win last season and that’s huge giving me the confidence knowing I’ve done it before, so let’s do it again.”

Dreiling will also be in the hunt for the 200 individual medley title with her qualifying time of 2:12.35 just .21 behind top qualifier Logan Johnsen of Blue Valley Southwest (2:12.14).

Dreiling and Kilgore weren’t the only defending champions who will go into Saturday’s finals at the hunter once again. Maize South’s Mia Gibson captured the 100 backstroke title last year, but was a distant second-place qualifier on Friday. Her time of 1:00.74 was well off last year’s winning time of 56.64, but also was more than four seconds slower than top qualifier Cailey Grunhard of Miege (56.12).

Earlier in the day, Grunhard bettered her own state record in the 100 butterfly, qualifying in 53.64, which obliterated her old mark of 55.35 set in last year’s preliminaries. Carroll’s Sydney Schmidt was a distant second in qualifying in the fly in 59.58 and the Golden Eagle freshman also qualified sixth in the 200 individual medley (2:17.97). Teammate Tatum Hilger also earned a pair of finals berths, qualifying fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:58.67) and fifth in the 500 freestyle (5:30.07).

Independent freshman Madison Martin qualified third in the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.70, two seconds behind Johnsen (1:07.54). She also qualified eighth in the 200 IM (2:19.64).

Kapaun picked up a healthy dose of championship finals qualifiers with Hayley Knapp in the 200 freestyle (seventh, 2:05.93) and 100 butterfly (1:03.52), Elizabeth Mitsch (fourth, 1:01.61) and Grace Vanderpool (sixth, 1:02.59) in the 100 backstroke, the 200 medley relay (sixth, 1:59.82), 200 freestyle relay (1:45.83) and 400 freestyle relay (sixth, 3:53.95). Carroll’s 200 freestyle relay (third, 1:45.39) and 400 freestyle relay (3:50.79) also made the finals, as did all three Maize South relays and Maverick Ashton Pearson in the 200 IM (seventh, 2:19.48) and 100 butterfly (sixth, 1:02.56) and Maize’s Mariana Nassuno Alves in the 50 free (eighth, 25.53) and 100 free (eighth, 56.48).