Varsity Kansas

Wichita Southeast senior finds his love again for swimming after year-long absence

Wichita Southeast senior Alec Lebeda has been swimming competitively nearly his entire life.

After almost 13 years as a swimmer, Lebeda got burnt out and decided to take a break, so he took his entire junior season off.

“I really didn’t have a passion for the sport anymore,” Lebeda said. “I originally was going to just take a month off, but then it turned into the rest of the season because I enjoyed having time to myself — I have never had that before.”

Although Lebeda enjoyed having free time and was able to focus on getting healthy, the senior started to feel like a piece of him was missing.

Between leaving his teammates and having unfinished business racing, Lebeda knew he needed to go back and swim for his senior year.

“I came back this year to finish what I had started,” Lebeda said. “I wanted to mend the friendships with my teammates that I had broken. I wanted to get back to what I was good at. I love the sport and taking a year off really put things in perspective for me.”

With his teammates in mind, Coach Jarred Gaskill knew that would be something to bring Lebeda back to the program.

Gaskill said that Lebeda is a team player and is highly respected by his teammates, which made the senior’s transition back on to the team seamless.

“Alec is there for the team 100 percent, and all the team knows it,” Gaskill said. “The guys all look up to him immensely.”

Although his transition to getting on the team again was simple, Lebeda’s season was far from it.

Lebeda had been struck with multiple illnesses that prevented him from being completely healthy enough to swim. He got over a sinus infection, but then came down with pneumonia and another sinus infection just weeks apart.

He had to take weeks off at a time from practicing and competing.

After over a week of recovery, Lebeda was able to get back in the pool on Tuesday — just three days prior to the City League meet at Heights High School.

Lebeda’s City League results made it seem like he never missed a beat.

He took first in the 500-yard freestyle on Friday with a time of 4 minutes, 52.63 seconds, which beat out Wichita East’s Jason Ooten by 0.19 seconds.

Lebeda also took first in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:02.60, winning by an entire second.

“It felt great, I haven’t had the most self-confidence all season because I haven’t been doing so well, so to come here and win both my events is such a great feeling,” Lebeda said. “I didn’t want to let my team down.”

Lebeda is a state qualifier in the 200-yard IM, the 100-yard breaststroke, the 100-yard freestyle and the 50-yard freestyle.

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Wichita Eagle preps reporter Hayden Barber brings the area updates on all high school sports while adding those hard-to-find human-interest stories on Wichita’s student-athletes.