The list of swimmers who have won state titles in the same event three years in a row just isn’t an extremely long one.
So it’s a testament to Katelyn Blattner’s mindset and approach to her craft that after adding her name to that ledger at Saturday’s Class 5-1A state meet in Topeka, the Wichita Heights junior still had other things on her mind.
“Right now, it’s not about place, it’s about time,” Blattner said. “I’ve almost improved every year and I’m very happy with my performance.… I’m just very fortunate with my family and friends being very supportive of all I’ve done.”
It’s pretty easy to get behind Blattner. It’s not easy to beat her.
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Last year, a fractured elbow couldn’t stop her from winning the 200-yard freestyle for the second straight year. Saturday, a loaded field was helpless to slow her bid for two titles as she cruised to championships in both the 200 and 500 freestyles.
Blattner won each race by at least four seconds and if not for a record-setting day by Miege’s Cailey Grunhard, Blattner would have also walked off with athlete of the meet honors for her performance.
“She’s a great competitor and highly dedicated,” Heights coach Dale Heckman said. “That setback last year probably re-fueled her a little bit. Just giving that passion again when you miss something you love. She came back even stronger and that showed today.”
Indeed, Blattner was untouchable. The fastest qualifier in the 200 free by a second and a half over Miege’s Cassie Grunhard, Blattner opened up a full-second lead by the first 50 and steadily widened the gap, winning by more than four seconds in 1:51.49.
As impressive as her win in the 200 was, her 500 title was even more so. Even with defending champion Brooke Dreiling in the field, Blattner quickly turned the race into an attempt to go after the state meet record set by Trinity Academy’s Rebecca Swank in 2008.
The mark proved just out of reach, but Blattner came less than a second away with a sub-30-second final lap. Her time of 4:58.55 won by seven seconds and came just shy of Swank’s 4:57.91.
“I thought it was attainable this year, but knowing I have another year it’s going to give me something to shoot for next year,’ Blattner said. “That’s my best time by about two seconds or so, so I’m really happy with what I did today. I knew they’d be gunning for me, but that pushed me to perform how I did.”
Blattner also teamed with Sara Childs, Madison Jensen and Selena Howard for 15th in the 200 medley relay (2:05.35) and with Childs, Howard and Hannah Howard for 16th in the 200 freestyle relay (1:53.68).
Knights to rememeber — Taylor Kostboth got exactly what she wanted to happen in the final of the 50 freestyle, namely a 1-2 finish with Trinity Academy teammate Kendall Kilgore.
In the process, she nearly got a state record.
Just ahead of Kilgore making the 25-yard turn, Kostboth rode the push from her teammate home to her second straight state title in the event. And when she looked at the scoreboard, she could hardly believe her eyes.
Her time of 23.79 seconds came .02 seconds away from breaking the 5-1A state meet record of 23.77 set by Winfield’s Kathy Echiverri in 1998.
“I had the record in mind all along since last year,” Kostboth said. “But to come that close was crazy. I wish I could have gotten it, but I’ve got next year. Next year, it’s all about the record.”
What Kostboth won’t have next year, however, is Kilgore by her side. That’s a big void to fill.
“She really pushes me so hard and I love racing against her,” Kostboth said.
Kilgore was second in 24.26, but didn’t finish her career without adding another state crown to her collection. The defending champion in the 100 freestyle, the Air Force signee went out and surprised even herself by winning it again.
Qualifying second to Miege’s Cassie Grunhard, Kilgore demolished her previous best time in the event, blazing to a 52.82 to win by more than a second over Grunhard (53.87).
“I could not believe it,” Kilgore said. “I cut almost a whole second from prelims and the only difference was praying more and giving it all to God. I just went out there and laid it all on the line and gave it all I had.”
Kilgore and Kostboth led Trinity’s 400 freestyle relay to a third-place finish in the final event of the day, teaming with Sierra Williams and Meg Perez to improve by nearly seven seconds from their prelim time to a 3:44.64.
Kostboth also made a huge jump in the 100 backstroke, cutting three-plus seconds off her qualifying time to finish runner-up to Miege’s Cailey Grunhard in 58.76 seconds. Grunhard was untouchable, setting the state meet record with a 55.15 seconds — her second record of the day after earlier breaking her own 100 butterfly record in 53.26 seconds.
Kostboth and Kilgore both were first-team All-State selections.
Other placers — Defending champions Brooke Dreiling of Andover Central and Mia Gibson of Maize South came up short in their bids to win second straight titles in the 500 freestyle and 100 backstroke, respectively.
Dreiling slipped to third in the 500 behind Blattner and Seaman’s McKynley Larson, finishing in 5:12.09 — time that still would have won last year’s state title. Gibson also dropped to third in the 100 backstroke, finishing behind Grunhard and Kostboth in 59.85.
Dreiling also added a third in the 200 individual medley (2:12.72) and Gibson was fifth in the 100 freestyle (55.39) with Dreiling earning first-team All-State and Gibson second-team.
Carroll’s Sydney Schmidt also was a first-team All-State pick, taking third in the 100 butterfly (58.86) and fourth in the 200 IM (2:15.42). Teammate Tatum Hilger was a second-team pick, taking fourth in the 200 free (1:58.83) and fifth in the 500 free (5:30.48).
Schmidt and Hilger also teamed with Hannah Chadd and Kayla Hennen for fourth in the 400 freestyle relay (3:47.86) and fifth in the 200 freestyle relay (1:45.10) as the Golden Eagles finished sixth as a team.
Kapaun was fourth in the team race, just eight points away from third-place Aquinas for a team trophy. Hayley Knapp was the Crusaders’ top individual finisher with a seventh in the 200 free and tie for seventh in the 100 butterfly, while the Crusaders also got a third from the 200 freestyle relay team of Knapp, Katherine Baldessari, June Baldessari and Elizabeth Mitsch, a fifth from the 400 free relay team of Mitsch, June Baldessari, Annabelle Brown and Grace Vanderpool and seventh from the 200 medley relay team of Knapp, Vanderpool, Katherine Baldessari and Reagan Moege.
Independent freshman Madison Martin placed third in the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.37 and seventh in the 200 IM in 2:18.34.