It had been a while since Blue Springs has been among the top teams in the state.
The year 2012 was the last time the Wildcats girls swim team won a conference title, and closing out a season in which they were undefeated in duals, Blue Springs looked poised to end that drought.
However, it got some stiff competition from crosstown rival Blue Springs South. The Jaguars were trailing the Wildcats by just two points going into the penultimate event – the 100-yard breaststroke. It was at that moment when Blue Springs created some separation. It scored 46 points when Annemarie Rehbein (1 minute, 9.77 seconds), Gracie Lefholz (1:12.04) and Brenna Walsh (1:13.45) placed second, fourth and fifth, respectively, to help their team top South 417-366 to take first at the Suburban Big Seven Conference Championships Saturday at the Lee’s Summit Aquatics Center.
“It’s really great being back at my home school and I am so proud of this group,” first-year Blue Springs coach Kevin Bigham said. “These girls really set us up with probably the best prelims I have ever seen. And they finished the job in finals. It was an amazing thing to be a part of.
“The breaststrokers won us the meet. They just turned it on and did great and here we are.”
Lee’s Summit West finished third with 329 points and Lee’s Summit North was fourth at 238.
Blue Springs senior Maisy Kurucz, who finished second in the 100 freestyle (53.84) and 200 freestyle (1:57.36), is a team captain and was the first one to get to hold the trophy. She said it was a special moment.
“It felt great, I haven’t been here (in first place) in the conference championship,” Kurucz said. “When I got here, they had a 13- or 14-year streak (of winning conference championships). This is the first time my team has ever once conference, so it feels really good.”
While Kurucz was one of many reasons for Blue Springs breaking through with a conference title, junior Shaedyn Read was at the forefront of the team’s big day. She captured the Wildcats’ only individual league titles by winning the 100 backstroke (59.96) and the 500 freestyle (5:13.77). Not only that, but she was a part of Blue Springs’ championship relay teams.
Read joined Rehbein, Jenna Wright and Sierra Heuston to win the 200 medley relay (1:51.55), and she teamed with Kurucz, Wright and Carson Ludwig to take the 400 free relay (3:40.26).
“I really wanted to help the team out today,” Read said. “We were all extremely motivated today and hyped up.”
Added Bigham: “Shaedyn is such a pro. I am grateful I am able to coach her. She’s such a great athlete. She conserved her energy for the 100 backstroke and took it easy on the 500. When she turns it up on the 500 free at state – when she really digs down – she’ll be in contention for first place.”
Other all-conference finishers for Blue Springs included Gracie Lefholz in the 200 individual medley (third, 2:18.36); the 200 freestyle relay (second, 1:41.58) and Wright in the 100 backstroke (third, 1:01.92).
Although, his team came up a little short of the conference title, Blue Springs South head coach Errich Oberlander was pleased that his team took four individual conference titles, including Bailey Carter winning the diving event on Thursday.
Others to win conference championships for the Jaguars were Raegan Hecker, Gabby Fournier, Anna Zweerink and McKenzie MacLean in the 200 free relay (1:40.98), which cut 21 seconds off its preliminary time; Hecker in the 50 freestyle (25.10); and Kirsten Markley in the 100 butterfly (59.49).
“It’s always great to walk away with four conference championships out of 12 events,” Oberlander said. “We’re still looking good for the future. We have Raegan who is still young and Anna, who had a good meet today. We will have a lot coming back (next year).
“I knew we would be fast today (in the 200 free relay). We took second in it last year and I know they were motivated to go out there and win it this year. That’s a special group of girls.”
“We just gave it our all today and had a pretty good meet,” Hecker said. “(In the 200 free relay) we just tried our best not to get disqualified (in the preliminaries). Then we just went as fast a possible in the finals.”
Other South swimmers to finish in the top three were Kirsten Markley in the 200 IM (second, 2:18.88); Lauren Markley (second, 1:00.91) and Zweerink (third, 1:00.97) in the 100 butterfly; Hecker in the 100 free (third, 55.05); and McKenzie Maclean (third, 5:25.41) in the 500 free; and the 400 freestyle relay team (second, 3:41.21).
For North, the 200 medley relay team took fourth (1:58.10) and its top individual finishers were Amanda Binger in the 100 breaststroke (seventh, 1:15.37) and Hayden Bentley in the 100 backstroke (seventh, 1:05.71).
SUBURBAN BIG SIX: Truman competed in the Suburban Big Six Championships Saturday at the Henley Aquatic Center and took sixth with 58 points.
Park Hill South won the event with 534 points.
Rian Caswell was the top individual finisher for Truman, taking eighth in the 100 breastroke (1:18.17), while the 200 medley relay team of Caswell, Devon Simms, Mikayla Zims and Valerie Xayaphet finished fifth (2:22.72). Victoria Xayaphet took fifth in diving.
SUBURBAN MIDDLE SIX: William Chrisman finished fourth in the Suburban Middle Six Championships Saturday at the Henley Aquatic Center.
Megan Bruch was the top finisher for Chrisman, taking third in the 200 free (2:22.81) and sixth in the 500 free (6:34.31). Katelynn Branstetter was sixth in the 100 backstroke (1:22.84) and eighth in the 100 free (1:12.22) for the Bears.