Other Varsity Sports

East won a 6A swim title last year and is already 'better'

East's Katerina Savvides (left), Astrid Dirkzwager (center) and Gillian Pierce-Butt prepared to dive into the water for the 100-yard butterfly final at the Trinity Academy Invitational.
East's Katerina Savvides (left), Astrid Dirkzwager (center) and Gillian Pierce-Butt prepared to dive into the water for the 100-yard butterfly final at the Trinity Academy Invitational. The Wichita Eagle

East won its first girls swimming state championship last year, but coach Joe Hutchinson said the 2018 group is already farther along.

"When you look year over year, this year's times to last year's times, we are faster every time," Hutchinson said. "We are better than we were last year."

The Aces won the Trinity Academy Invitational on Saturday, running away from state powers. They beat Kapaun, one of the hottest teams in Kansas this season, by 76 points, and Bishop Miege, last year's 5-1A state champion, by 224.

Hutchinson said his girls were "tired" after the impressive day in the pool, but their goals weren't at the Trinity Invite; they are the meets won in May.

The City League is loaded with talent this season. At last week's Northwest Invitational, Kapaun, Carroll and East finished in that order in the 400-yard freestyle relay. And Saturday, the City League won every event but two, and the two that it lost, it came second.

Hutchinson said winning the City League will be objective No. 1 and doing well at state thereafter is to follow.

The order will be tall, but East is loaded with talent. Eight different Aces won or were on relay teams that won events Saturday, but only one of them is a returning individual state champion.

Sophomore Astrid Dirkzwager is already arguably the top swimmer in Kansas. As a freshman, she won the 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard freestyle. Those were the only two events she swam.

She didn't lose Saturday either.

Hutchinson said though she is one of the best, she likes to keep it light.

"Some of the kids commented at practice the other day about how much fun she is," he said. "She works incredibly hard, but she has a good time doing it."

Hutchinson said that helps the others catch the itch for racing.

Dirkzwager may be the headliner, but East attacks in almost every race.

Junior Katerina Savvides placed third in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard backstroke at the Class 6A meet last year. Hutchinson said she, and almost every other returner, looks much sharper than they did in 2017.

Two events Saturday epitomized that.

First in the 100-yard butterfly final, Savvides, Dirkzwager and Gillian Pierce-Butt were lined up in lanes 3-5. They entered the race with the top three times in the field. In fact, they were the only three to post times under 60 seconds.

Dirkzwager touched first. Savvides was less than a half second behind in second. Pierce-Butt took third another half second later.

Then, a week after coming in third in the same event to the same team, Kapaun, East's group of Julia Whitfield, Baylor McPherson, Eloise Lavacek and Regan Carlson won the 400-yard freestyle relay by more than 3 seconds.

Whitfield has been one of the top performers this season, relative to her results last year.

She won the consolation heat in the 50-yard freestyle at the state meet at 25.16 seconds. This season, she has already raced more quickly than that.

Whitfield, a senior and team captain, didn't race throughout the summer, so when she got back into events, her times were down.

"After that, I had some fire in my belly," she said.

That seems to be the mindset the Aces have taken this year. Hutchinson said he and the girls know their times from last season won't lead to a repeat in Class 6A.

The team is gelling from top to bottom. Saturday, the Aces were even missing some of its heavy-hitters like Dirkzwager and Savvides for the second half of the meet because of prom.

They still beat a defending state champion by more than 200 points.

East has pinned its ears back and focused on improving one thing to turn one state championship into two.

"Speed," Hutchinson said.