TOPEKA — As her friends and teammates gathered around and offered congratulations and high-fives, Southeast's Emily Chesser let her emotions fly.
"I'm freaking out!" she cried out.
But it was a good freak out for the Southeast junior. Chesser had a stellar day Friday during Class 6A preliminaries at the State Swimming and Diving Championships at the Capitol Federal Natatorium.
After lightning delayed the start of the meet by a half hour, Chesser showed off her own power surge. Chesser had the fastest qualifying time in the 200-yard individual medley and then backed it up by qualifying first in the 100-yard backstroke later in the meet.
"I have never been top seed in anything at state before," an exuberant Chesser said. "I'm nervous, but I'm excited and I'm proud of myself. I don't know what I was expecting today. I just wanted to go out and do my best and whatever happened, happened. I guess I just had a really good outcome."
Chesser was seeded third in both of her individual events coming into Friday's prelims. But swimming in the first heat of each race, she set the pace.
In the IM, she cut 1 1/2 seconds off her previous best and her time of 2 minutes, 9.92 seconds was .35 seconds faster than Olathe Northwest's Natalie Morris. In the 100 back, Chesser chopped more than a second off her best with a 58.55 that just nipped SM West's Kate Snyder (58.80) for the top time.
That makes Chesser the hunted instead of the hunter for today's finals with good friend Nikki Daniels of Northwest one of her main pursuers in the 200 IM. Daniels qualified third in 2:10.38.
"I've never really been the front person before, I've always chased," Chesser said. "I guess we'll see what I like better. I definitely feel like I still need to be gunning for the other girls because they're all very good and will push me. But I feel like I'll give them good competition, too."
The two-time defending state champion in the 100 breaststroke, Daniels looks untouchable in her bid for a third straight crown in the event. Her qualifying time of 1:05.42 was more than two seconds ahead of her closest challenger.
Class 5-1A — Bishop Carroll's Madison Hutchison may only be a freshman, but she's getting a quick baptism to the intensity of the state meet.
"I was really nervous because I didn't know what to expect," Hutchison said. "I'm having a fun time and I'm excited to see what I can do."
She very well could be atop the medal stand if she follows through with her efforts in Friday's preliminaries. Hutchison clocked the fastest qualifying time in the 100-yard butterfly, just nipping Seaman's Maggie Metz by .12 seconds for the top time in 59.87 seconds.
Seeded first in the 100 backstroke entering the meet, Hutchison qualified third in 1:00.00. That race will be a shootout as well with Independent's Brooke Brittain and Trinity Academy's Emily Knocke qualifying 1-2 in 59.63 and 59.71, respectively.
"I'm hoping I can go best times and I'm just going to go out and have fun," Hutchison said. "I always have tomorrow to see how I'm going to do, so I'm perfectly fine where I'm seeded at."
Trinity's Chelsey Kilgore was the top qualifier in the 50 freestyle in 24.57 seconds, while Andover Central's Gina Cernohous was tops in the 200 individual medley in 2:13.60.
Kapaun's Marisa Meyer entered Friday's prelims seeded first in the 100 breaststroke, and qualified third in 1:13.73, nearly two seconds behind top qualifier Elise Valdez of Hayden (1:11.81). Kilgore might have earned a second top seed for the final, but was no match for Topeka West's Emily Dicus in the 100 freestyle as Dicus broke the state record by a full second in 50.99, two and a half seconds faster than Kilgore.
That wasn't even Dicus' most impressive race of the day as she obliterated the 200 freestyle record by more than four seconds with a time of 1:48.65, which also tops the all-time state meet record of Manhattan's Amy Oberhelman set in 1994 (1:49.10).