Wichita East is further along than it was at this time last year, coach Joe Hutchinson said.
East is going for its unprecedented 11th straight City League swimming title, but the Blue Aces, like all teams, have to replace a lot of senior talent from last season.
Hugh McPherson and Jack Quah were instrumental in helping East to a fourth-place finish in Class 6A last season. It was the Aces’ fifth top-five finish at state since 2012.
With such a rich tradition in the East swim program, the eyes have turned to them, and the story has gone from the Aces’ wins to their losses. Hutchinson said the pressure of having eight City League schools and many others in the Wichita area and Kansas is certainly there, though they try not to overwhelm themselves.
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“I think the main thing is when the seniors are getting ready for the season, they talk a lot about continuing the streak,” Hutchinson said. “They make sure we’re doing everything we can to maximize our points. If we don’t win, we don’t win.”
That’s why Thursday’s home-opening meet was so important. It set a tone: They will be there again in 2018-19.
East won by 16 points over Wichita Heights, one of the top contenders in the City League. The Aces won eight of 12 events. Now a brigade of swimmers lead the Aces, including seniors Sam Hutchinson and Earl Hwang.
Hwang said everyone swam well Thursday.
“I’m proud,” Hwang said. “This is only the beginning. We’re only going to get better, and I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Joe Hutchinson said every team will always have its top swimmers, but for the Aces to be toward the top of the state leaderboard at the end of the season or even to win title No. 15, it will go beyond his team’s top times.
“We need to get little points,” Joe Hutchinson said. “We’re going to have some guys who score really high like Sam, Drayden, Earl and Jason (Ooten). They are going to score a ton of points, but we need guys like Kenny (Pham) and James (Owen) and Ian (Phares) to move into those scoring points at the state meet.
“That’s going to be where whether or not we get a trophy.”
And Sam Hutchinson said though a lot of work needs to happen between now and then, there is potential to do it.
“That would be a dream come true to be able to contend for a state title this year,” he said.