For most of his high school career, Heights’ Dylan Jensen has been the hunter.
So being the top dog this time around is a little different feeling for the Falcon. But it’s one he’s relishing.
“It’s definitely new for me, but I like it. It’s fun and makes me go faster,” Jensen said. “It’s fun chasing people, but it’s nice being ahead.”
The field will be gunning for Jensen in Saturday’s 50-yard freestyle final after he posted the fastest qualifying time Friday at the Class 5-1A state swimming meet at Topeka’s Capitol Federal Natatorium. Jensen was one of only three swimmers to go under 22 seconds, turning in a 21.49 which was .37 faster than Seaman’s Janson Garman (21.86) and .48 ahead of KC Turner’s Gabe Pena (21.97).
Jensen was third in the event a year ago and second as a sophomore as Rose Hill’s Gavin Smith blazed to back-to-back titles. Jensen soaked in how Smith handled the pressure and hopes to replicate it as he goes for his first title.
“They were always so calm,” he said. “You just have to stay collected so you can go out and perform your best.”
Jensen also will be in the hunt for the 100 freestyle title after taking third in that event last year as well. He qualified third in 47.76 behind Andover Central’s Spencer Krueger (47.23) and Miege’s Lex Hernandez-Nietling (47.52).
A shot at four golds isn’t far-fetched either as Jensen also helped two Falcon relays to top qualifying marks. He teamed with Aidan Gantenbein, Noah Thompson and Carson Hager for the top time in the 200 medley relay in 1:38.85 and with Hager, Thompson and Ethan Conrady for the fastest 200 freestyle relay time in 1:30.37.
Heights’ 400 freestyle relay team of Conrady, Thompson, Gantenbein and Kamren Hall qualified second. Their time of 3:19.26 was .13 seconds behind Maize’s foursome of Ryan Kuhl, Bryce Nelson, Jacob Ruder and Christian Taylor.
Speedy senior debut — As a senior, Spencer Krueger seemingly shouldn’t have the nervous energy he was feeling during Friday’s preliminaries.
But with Andover Central making its program debut in boys swimming this year, Krueger and his teammates are experiencing the state meet for the first time and despite having competed in numerous big meets during club season, there’s just a different feel.
“I didn’t expect it, but it’s been pretty nerve-racking the entire time I’ve been here,” Krueger said. “I don’t think I’ve stopped moving around and I haven’t been able to relax.”
The nervous energy translated into big-time adrenaline which carried Krueger to a stellar day during prelims. Krueger sprinted to the top qualifying time in both of his individual events, posting the fastest times in the 200 and 100 freestyles.
Seeded third in the 200 freestyle, Krueger won his heat in 1 minute, 45.23 seconds to edge Seaman’s Zeke Metz (1:45.35) for the top spot. He made an even bigger jump in the 100 freestyle where he was seeded fifth, blazing to a 47.23 to top Miege’s Lex Hernandez-Nietling (47.52) and Heights’ Dylan Jensen (47.76).
“I wanted to get out fast and give myself a good position for the finals,” Krueger said. “I was a little surprised at how well that went.”
Krueger also helped put the Jaguars’ 400 freestyle relay in position to challenge for gold, teaming with Raddek Thomas, Nicolas Krueger and Charles Hsu for a 3:20.41, which is a little more than a second behind top qualifier Maize (3:19.13).
Patton closing in — It did cross Ben Patton’s mind to lay back a little bit in both of his individual swims and save plenty for Saturday’s finals as he tries to go after two state titles for the second straight year.
But after coming within .7 seconds of getting the 100 backstroke record at last year’s state meet, Patton decided to give the record another go during Friday’s prelims. And while the Trinity Academy sophomore didn’t quite get there, he’s getting closer.
“I just decided I’ve got two chances to get the record so I’d go for it,” said Patton, who easily posted the fastest qualifying time in 50.84 seconds — .56 off the state meet record of 50.28 set by Newton’s David Winter in 2006. “I definitely want it a lot this year.”
Patton was two and a half seconds faster than the field in the backstroke and seems like a sure bet to defend that title. Getting a second straight 200 individual medley title will be a much tougher task.
Patton qualified third in the event Friday in 1:58.08, four and a half seconds behind top qualifier Brayden Love of Leavenworth (1:53.50).
Patton cut a whopping five seconds off his preliminary time in last year’s finals to shock the field, and may have to do it again to get another.
“I was kind of cruising a bit to save some energy, but I’m going up against some really fast people,” Patton said.
Patton also teamed with Colton Smith, Dylan Davis and Joey Vigilius to qualify second in the 200 medley relay in 1:40.65, about two seconds behind Heights (1:38.85).
Lying in wait? — As a five-time state champion, nobody’s going to overlook Rose Hill’s Noah Baden.
But if the Rocket senior is to add to his legacy and become the program’s most decorated swimmer, he’s going to have to have a big day Saturday. The two-time defending champion in the 500 freestyle and three-time reigning champion in the 100 breaststroke, wasn’t the fastest qualifier in either event Friday.
Baden qualified second in the 500 and third in the breaststroke, and has some gaps to close to stay on top. His time of 4:50.22 was three and a half seconds behind Seaman’s Zeke Metz (4:46.82), who was last year’s top qualifier as well before fading on Saturday.
In the 100 breaststroke, Bonner Springs’ Ryan Downing was fastest in 57.49 and Miege’s Lex Hernandez-Nietling was second in 59.05 while Baden was third in 59.58.