The Lee’s Summit North swimming and diving team was facing an uphill battle from the start of the Independence Invitational, which featured 26 teams and almost 500 competitors.
The Broncos, who finished third at state last year, were missing three state qualifying swimmers, including JP Hynes, Jonah Murray and Andrew Bennett. That forced North to use some younger swimmers for its relay teams. Even while being short handed, the Broncos showed that they had depth when they finished fourth in a loaded field at the Henley Aquatic Center.
The event, which had four of the top six finishers from last year’s Class 2 state meet, including defending state champion Columbia Rock Bridge, saw Liberty take first with 352 points. The Broncos had 198 points, Blue Springs South was sixth with 158 points, Grain Valley was 15th with 48 points, Blue Springs (with only its divers) was 17th with 32 points and Truman was 21st with six points.
“This was one of the of the biggest meets we’ve ever had,” Truman coach and event coordinator Trevor Tomney said. “I was thrilled with the turnout. It was great.”
The Broncos got a trio of wins from Daniel Worth in the 200-yard individual medley (1:57.64) and the 100 breaststroke (58.33 seconds) and Grant Godard in the 100 freestyle (48.52). Godard also finished second in the 100 backstroke (53.19). He was also a part of the fifth-place 200 medley relay team with Zack Smith, Jonathan Thomas and Alder Hinz Harding (1:46.51) and the second-place 400 free relay with Thomas, Grant Idoux and Worth (3:19.44).
“I was a little sloppy today and am still a little out of shape from the two weeks I took off,” Worth admitted. “I was hoping to be around 1:57 (in the 200 IM) and get faster later in the season.”
Added Godard: “My time actually got entered wrong (for the 100 free), so I had to swim in the second to last heat, so I had to push myself in that race.”
Thomas also took third in the 200 freestyle (1:48.88) for North.
“I thought we competed well and swam really fast,” North assistant coach Thomas Faulkenberry said. “Not having three of our main contributors gave us the opportunity to see some of our younger guys had.”
For South, it did about as well as head coach Errich Oberlander expected. Led by Chase Graham and their divers, the Jaguars were able to place in the top six.
“That’s about what I expected,” Oberlander said. “I knew that meet was going to be pretty loaded. Sixth place, I am pretty happy with that.”
Divers Alex Burt and Micah Currie were a big part of of South’s success. Burt, who is the defending Class 2 state champion, finished third with 384.55 points in the 1-meter diving event. Currie, who was fourth at state last year, won with 413.55 points.
“I thought I did very well,” Currie said. “I didn’t think I was going to get first. I thought my teammate Alex Burt was going to get first. I was more consistent than I have been in past meets.”
Graham, who earned all-state honors in the 200 and 500 free a year ago, was fourth in the 100 butterfly (55.05) and sixth in the 100 free (50.45). He also teamed with Thomas Branson, Aaron Wedel and Matthew Clark to take fourth in the 200 free relay (1:37.12); and joined the same three swimmers to take fifth in the 400 free relay (3:33.61).
“I liked how I did today. I am pretty happy with it,” Graham said. “It’s always great racing against these guys. I’ve known a lot of them since I started swimming. They always give me good competition.”
Added Oberlander: “Chase was swimming in some secondary events, so to see what he did was good.”
For Grain Valley, it got to see what the best swim teams in Missouri have to offer in its first year. Competing in the Independence Invitational was invaluable experience for Kara Liddle’s Eagles.
Senior Wyatt Huffman was the only Eagles swimmer to finish in the top 10. He was sixth in the 200 IM (2:11.83) and seventh in the 500 free (5:14.28). Diver Eli Hendricks was eighth with 293.60 points.
“It was fun,” Liddle said. “I was glad we were able to bring our boys to a big meet like this. This is our third meet of the season and this was different than what they are used to, but they got to see a lot of fast swimming today and that got them excited.”
Blue Springs, which only had divers compete, saw Ethan Gutierrez finish fifth (330.45) and Josiah Thompson take sixth (326.05).