The state boys swim meet has long been dominated by schools in the northeastern part of Kansas. In the past 26 years, only one school outside that area — Wichita Southeast in 2003 — won a boys title.
That may change this weekend in Topeka because for the first time since 1973, the state meet will be split into two classes — Classes 6A and 5-1A.
Area coaches are thrilled with the change.
"Obviously it allows the opportunity to have a few more swimmers that might not necessarily make a qualifying time in the 6A championship and certainly gives us a better opportunity to advance to the finals," said Wichita Trinity coach Bruce Van Bebber, whose school is in Class 4A.
For Bishop Carroll coach Andrea Ellsworth and Kapaun Mount Carmel coach Chris Erickson, their schools now are projected to finish in the top three in 5-1A. Newton is also a contender for the top three, and Salina South, which won in 1983, is a heavy favorite to win.
"In the past, we just felt lucky to make it to the state meet," Ellsworth said. "We knew we were always the little dogs playing in the big dogs' playground."
Erickson admitted that there was frustration in the past with every class being in one state meet.
The northeast Kansas schools "have larger teams and they can take more boys," he said. "But we're always up for new competition, racing people that are faster than us. We usually do well under pressure, where there's faster kids that are better in our state meets."
Kapaun is taking 14 swimmers, six more than its previous high. Carroll has 10 going, doubling last year's total.
While Van Bebber would be pleased with a top-10 finish by Trinity, he's thrilled that all three of his team's relays qualified.
"We haven't had a boys relay team advance in four years," he said. "We have all three relays and all three relays have a legitimate chance at placing."
Sophomore David Berry, a top-three contender according to Van Bebber, qualified in all but the 100 breaststroke and 50 freestyle. But Van Bebber never used him in those events.
Berry will swim the 200 medley relay, the 100 butterfly, the 100 backstroke and the 400 free relay. He is seeded second in the backstroke, fourth in the butterfly.
Carroll, in its fifth season of boys swimming, also qualified its three relays. The Eagles' 400 free relay has a chance, according to Ellsworth, after they finished second at the City League meet and are seeded second at state. Alec Khoury, who is seeded fourth in the 500 free and fifth in the 200 free, could place high.
Kapaun's 200 medley relay and its 400 free relay are possible spots that the Crusaders will place high.
"We will have quite a few who will be top eight," Erickson said.
Several possibilities are Ryan Zwick, seeded third in the 500 free and second in the 100 free and Matthew Louis, who is seeded sixth in the 200 individual medley.
In the 200 IM, Louis will face some area swimmers in Wichita Independent's Christian Kilgore, seeded first, and Newton's Jonathan Wilks (seeded fourth) and Newton's Cameron Spreier (seeded fifth).
Kilgore is also seeded first in the 100 breast.
"This meet will give us our time to shine," Erickson said. "Being 5A and below, even thought we do just as well at the 6A meet, we'd come up 19th or 20th.
"Now we have a shot at being top three."
Class 6A — While teams from northeast Kansas are favored to win 6A, several Wichita-area athletes have chances to do well.
Maize's 200 medley relay and the 200 free relay are seeded fourth, and Maize's Taylor Rice is seeded second in the 100 breast.
Heights' Ian Cullinan is seeded second in the 100 back. North's Logan Lassley is seeded third in the 50 free, right in front of Rice and East's Jake Spitz.