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Examiner
  • Early challenge

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  • In the grand scheme of a whole swim season, Thursday marked a simple dual meet at Centennial Pool-Plex for the Blue Springs and Blue Springs South boys swimming and diving teams.
    But a chance to go head-to-head against a crosstown rival can add a little spice to a weekday event, which made South’s 105-80 win at Blue Springs’ home pool a little sweeter.
    “This is always kind of a big meet because it’s our rival,” South coach Errich Oberlander said. “Plus, this is the first time we’ve swam here since these seniors were freshmen. To have that element always adds to the excitement.”
    The Jaguars claimed eight of 12 events, including two individual wins each from Jack Pluenneke and Connor Gregston, and finished with 21 of a possible 36 top-three finishes.
    “Normally we don’t care much about dual meets, but they’re big rivals,” said Pluenneke, who cruised to wins by nearly seven seconds in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 2.96 seconds) and more than 15 seconds in the 500 freestyle (5:04.99).
    “They’ve won conference the last (15) years,” he said of the Wildcats. “This is the team to beat.
    “It’s always fun to come out and swim against a good team, and for our younger guys, to see we have in store.”
    While the crosstown rivalry naturally certainly is competitive, Pluenneke said it’s not a case of mutual dislike.
    “For the most part, everybody on the teams are friends,” he said.
    Pluenneke also swam the second leg on the winning 200 free relay (1:34.06) and 400 free relay (3:31.12). Dominic Baber, Connor Dillon and Gregston joined him in both races.
    James Poole started the day for South by winning the 1-meter diving with a final score of 216.55 points, and the Jaguars claimed the top three spots in that event as well as the 50 free. P.J. Risalvato and Noah Hardin were the other top divers, while Gregston (22.77), Dillon and Baber led the way in the 50 free.
    Gregston’s other win came in the 100 butterfly (55.93), while Dillon claimed the 100 free in 51.11.
    Oberlander also was pleased with his younger swimmers filling in some of the spots behind the winners.
    “It’s always fun to watch some of the new guys,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of freshmen, both divers and swimmers, and that helps with depth. Alex Shier (first-year sophomore), he’s quickly becoming one of our fastest sprinters.”
    Blue Springs’ wins came from the 200 medley relay quartet (1:50.46), Michael Melichar in the 200 free (1:56.49), Adam Sims in the 100 backstroke (1:04.07) and Brian Buckner in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.89).
    Page 2 of 2 - In addition to the natural rivalry, Wildcats coach Bill Shalley said Thursday was big simply from a competition standpoint.
    “When we’re going up against a potential final four team like Blue Springs South or [fellow conference rival] Lee’s Summit North, and they are that good, you do it for the challenge,” Shalley said. “You don’t do it because it’s easy.”
    While little from his boys’ performance served as a pleasant surprise, Shalley also wasn’t outwardly distressed.
    “We’ll keep doing what we’re doing, working on our technique and see what happens,” he said. “It’s a good group; they’re just not consistent enough yet.
    “There’s some guys starting to break through, but nothing I didn’t expect based on practice. You expect some guys to keep getting better during the season.”

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