Do you want to see the top three teams in the state from last year’s Missouri State High School Boys Swimming and Diving Championships and barely leave your back yard?
If so, you’re in luck as No. 1 Rockhurst, No. 2 Blue Springs South and No. 3 Lee’s Summit North will join Lee's Summit West, Liberty and Park Hill at the South-Rock Invitational at the Blue Springs Family YMCA (located just south of Blue Springs South High School).
The Hawklets totaled 220 points at state last year to win their record 10th title in a row. Eastern Jackson County then made some noise as South finished with 163 points – matching the 1999 Jaguars team for the highest finish in school history – and the Broncos totaled 161 to bring home the third-place trophy.
“That was an amazing weekend in St. Peters, Missouri,” said South coach Errich Oberlander, who is entering his sixth season as the Jaguars head coach. “Two years ago we were fifth, and we wanted to finish in the top four to bring home a state trophy. To finish second to a great team like Rockhurst was just amazing. And to have North finish third made it even better. It was great to share that success with a Suburban Big Six team.
“Now, swimming fans can see the top three teams from state at the Blue Springs YMCA. They won’t see all the swimmers who were involved in last year’s state meet because of graduation, but they will be able to see the teams and see what we all have coming back this season.”
Diving starts at 8:30 a.m. and the swim meet follows at noon.
“We’re a pretty young team this year,” Oberlander said Wednesday afternoon. “We just have seven seniors back from last year's team and not a lot of juniors.
“But we’re looking for a big splash from our sophomores and freshmen. I hear some of the guys talk about all the great seniors we lost to graduation and I tell them, ‘Now, it's your time to shine. Go out and make a name for yourself.’”
That’s what last year's team did, as Oberlander sensed it would be special when swimmers like Jack Pluenneke and Connor Gregston were freshmen.
“You could look at last year’s season as our foundation season because we finished second at state,” the coach said, “but I look at our foundation season as the year Connor and Jake and those other seniors were freshmen.
“They were young, talented and excited about swimming. We finished fifth – and only the top four teams get a state trophy – when they were juniors. And we all had the feeling that they were going to do something special when they were seniors.”
Only one senior medal winner returns this season, Dom Baber, who won two silver medals from the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays.
“Dom's the only medal winner back,” the coach said. “Garrett Edwards competed at state but did not win a medal. But the kids and our coaches are so excited about Saturday and the entire season.
“We’re doing some things to fire the guys up, to make practice fun. Because, let’s face it, it would be so mind-numbingly boring that you have to throw in some fun things, some different twists and turns or they might lose interest.
“When I became the head coach, I had a plan – and with the guys finishing in second place last year, I could say it worked to perfection. It worked, because they worked so hard. Now, when I see a young swimmer from the middle school or elementary school, I’ll go and talk with them.
“If I’m with one of our swimmers, I’ll introduce them. They can never be too young to get excited about Blue Springs South swimming.”