Athletes from the Wichita area stole the show at the 2018 Kansas state swimming and diving meet, and that is reflected in The Eagle's 2018 All-Metro Girls Swimming and Diving Team.
Here are the selections:
200-Yard Medley Relay
East - Katerina Savvides, Jr.; Hannah Balch, Sr.; Gillian Pierce-Butt, Jr.; Baylor McPherson, Fr.
The Aces started their state-title defense right.
East won the Class 6A 200-yard medley relay with a school record 1:47.96. The Aces finished almost 1.5 seconds ahead of any other team in the state in any class.
East's 200 medley relay teams won every meet in which they competed, but this start was only a glimpse of what was coming.
Claire Conover - Kapaun, Fr.
One of the most promising swimmers in the Wichita area, Conover put together a remarkable freshman season with a stout state meet.
Conover tolk third in the 5-1A 200-yard free at 1:59.58, just four tenths off the runner-up spot.
She was also part of the Crusaders' fourth-place 200-yard freestyle relay at 1:43.44. She finished fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke at 1:10.65.
And she was part of the Kapaun team that set the school record in the 400-yard freestyle relay at 3:41.16.
200-Yard Individual Medley
Natalie Knapp - Kapaun, So.
Knapp was Kapaun's only individual swimmer who came home a state champion.
The Crusaders won the 400-yard freestyle relay, but Knapp took the 5-1A title in the 200-yard individual medley at 2:15.11. Her comeback was remarkable.
Knapp was about half of a length behind the Independent's Madison Martin and her teammate Elizabeth Mitsch before she hit her freestyle leg and bolted to the wall.
"We all did our best, and we did what we could," Knapp said. "In the end, it was all good for the school."
Knapp had an up-and-down start to the season after coming from Southeast but finished strong, finishing in the top five of all four of her events at the City League meet.
Megan Keil - Derby, Sr.
Keil is the fastest female high school swimmer in Kansas history.
She won the 50-yard freestyle, the state meet's shortest race, with a record time of 22.70 seconds. She tied her personal best.
Keil also won the Class 6A 100-yard freestyle at 51.38 seconds. She was one of three swimmers to win two individual state titles in 2018. She was named the 6A swimmer of the state meet.
"Some of my best memories are obviously state but also some of the smaller meets and our home meets," Keil said. "Every year, those were a lot of fun."
Keil is committed to swim at the University of Missouri.
"I think (the most exciting part) is just reconnecting with all my teammates and meeting the ones I haven't met yet," Keil said.
Brianna Reece - Heights, Jr.
Reece was outstanding in 2018.
She won the 2018 City League diving title with 364.90 points, bettering her preliminary score by 15.35 points. She held off Kapaun's Harper Amend in the finals by 13.65 points.
At the state meet, Reece finished 10th in Class 5-1A with 329.80 points. She was just 4.2 points off seventh. She was the highest finisher among all Wichita-area schools in Class 6A and 5-1A.
Reece still has another year to improve but has already developed a nice resume with her spot on the Eagle's first All-Metro Girls Swimming and Diving Team.
Sydney Schmidt - Carroll, Jr.
Schmidt is one of the most powerful swimmers in the Wichita.
At the state meet, Schmidt won the Class 5-1A 100-yard butterfly about 10 minutes after she won the 50-yard freestyle. After her back-to-back titles, she said she was understandably "exhausted."
Schmidt won the 50 at 24.35 seconds and the 100 at 57.62 seconds.
"Honestly, to this day, I still don't know how I did it," she said. "I guess all the training built my body up to where I was ready for it."
Schmidt said she is taking a great deal of momentum from state and Carroll's third-place finish in the team competition.
"What made me most happy at state was the fact that we did finish third," she said. "It was just thrilling to be a part of that experience."
Addi Schroeder - Hesston, Jr.
Schroeder's story to state success was differeent from most.
Hesston does not have an official girls swimming and diving team, so Schroeder competed with Newton throughout the regular season. But at the state meet, Schroeder traded her Newton cap for a Hesston one.
"The Newton coach still helped me, but I didn't have any relays, so I was just doing individual events," she said.
Schroeder finished second in the Class 5-1A 100-yard freestyle at 55.14 seconds. It was a school record, and she said representing Hesston was a special opportunity.
"Hesston has never had a swim team like that," she said. "I haven't done a lot of other school sports, so it was nice to finally get to swim for my school."
Maci McCullough - West, So.
Another of Wichita's best has a special motivation.
McCullough finished second in the 6A 500-yard freestyle at 5:02.51, and her mom and dad were there coaching her the whole way.
McCullough's mother, Emily McCullough, is West's swim coach, and Maci said that is important to her success.
"She's always supporting me, and my dad is my coach, too," she said. "I'm always having them cheering me on. They always know how to push me."
McCullough won the 200 IM at the City League meet and came third at the 200-yard freestyle at state. She said she does think about her trajectory.
"For colleges, I have to prepare myself for that," McCullough said. "I have to train to get there, and I'm just hoping I go far."
200-Yard Freestyle Relay
East - Astrid Dirkzwager, So.; Gillian Pierce-Butt, Jr.; Baylor McPherson, Fr.; Julia Whitfield, Sr.
East trailed in the team standings before the Aces clinched All-American status.
The 200-yard freestyle team swam a school record at 1:36.77, topping the All-American consideration time by about a half-second. The Aces took the team lead and never looked back.
The Aces beat their preliminary and City League finals time by about 2.5 seconds.
East - Astrid Dirkzwager, So.
Dirkzwager earned All-Merican status as a freshman and continued that momentum into her sophomore season.
Dirkzwager won the Class 6A 100-yard backstroke at 55.85 seconds, topping Blue Valley North's Cayla Prophater by less than a tenth of a second.
With her success, Dirkzwager has developed a reputation as one of the most well-rounded swimmers in Kansas. But she isn't worried about that.
"I don't really worry about what the newspapers or anybody says," she said. "I just swim, not think about it and just worry about myself."
Last year, Dirkzwager won the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke. This year, she took titles in the 100 back, and 200 and 400 free relays.
Lexie Shelton - Carroll, So.
Carroll is one of Kansas' most up-and-coming teams, and Shelton is one of its headline swimmers.
With Schmidt, Shelton helped Carroll to a school record third-place finish at state. She came runner-up in the 5-1A 100-yard breaststroke at 1:06.70, just eight hundreths of a second behind the title. She also won the 500-yard freestyle at 5:09.15.
"It was a lot to handle," Shelton said.
Shelton said despite her outstanding performance at state, the most exciting part of her day was earning the Eagles a trophy.
"It's pretty awesome that we can be a part of that and have next year," she said. "We're gonna get some good freshman to build upon what we did."
400-Yard Freestyle Relay
Kapaun - Katherine Baldessari, Sr.; Natalie Knapp, So.; Elizabeth Mitsch, Jr.; Claire Conover, Fr.
Kapaun had the most emotional moment of the state swim meets.
The Crusaders needed to win the 400-yard freestyle to have a chance at clinching the 5-1A team title. They won it with a school record time of 3:41.16. They beat their preliminary time by 4.5 seconds.
When Conover hit the wall to clinch the relay win, the Crusaders broke into tears. Unfortunately for them, Aquinas finished fourth, which put the team competition four points out of reach.
Despite the loss, Kapaun's win in the last event gave them life heading into 2019.
Coach of the Year
Chris Erickson - Kapaun
Although Kapaun did not win the 5-1A state championship, Erickson led the Crusaders to their top finish in school history.
"We're so close," Knapp said. "I wouldn't trade them for any other group of girls in the world."
Kapaun finished seventh at state in 2017 with 110 team points. In 2018, the Crusaders came runners-up with 285 points, 175 more than the year before.
Kapaun won two events: Knapp in the 200-yard IM and in the 400-yard free relay. Sixth was its best finish in any event last year.
No Crusader or relay team had won a state event since 2007.