It might as well be midseason for the Blue Springs South boys swimming and diving team.

It might as well be midseason for the Blue Springs South boys swimming and diving team.

That might be overstating things a tad, but not by much according to coach Errich Oberlander. After a summer in which the Jaguars’ offseason swimming participation numbers were at an all-time high, South has started the season minus the inconvenience of early-season cobwebs. That was evident Tuesday as the Jaguars edged Blue Springs 162-153 at Centennial Pool-Plex. The meet followed a Saturday effort in which South fell to seven-time defending state champion 203-112, but still tallied 100 points against the Hawklets for the first time in Oberlander’s seven seasons with the program as head coach and an assistant. The Jags also took four events Saturday for their first triumphs against Rockhurst in Oberlander’s tenure.

South has taken the last two meetings with the Wildcats after previously suffering an 11-season losing streak to its biggest rival.

“It’s pretty gratifying to see the work that we’re doing is paying off,” Oberlander said. “I’m very impressed. We’ve been working very hard this year and it’s showing.”

Oberlander said most of the squad was involved in the program’s offseason weightlifting program that picks up in intensity after the girls season ends in February. And while Missouri State High School Activities Association rules prohibit Oberlander from personally organizing much offseason swimming, the majority of the team spends plenty of summertime in the water.

One of those year-round guys is sophomore Jack Pluenneke, who clocked top times in the 200-yard individual medley and 500 freestyle Tuesday. He also helped the Jags’ 400 freestyle relay team – that included Lucas Munoz, Brent Henderson and Connor Gregston – to a first-place finish.

Pluenneke noted that several of his teammates tallied personal bests against the Cats. Personally, he fell a little short of his best marks, but his times in the 200 IM (2:03.65) and 500 freestyle (5:01.23) topped the state qualifying standard.

He also reached another important benchmark.

“I wanted to beat Blue Springs this year,” Pluenneke said. “That was one of my big expectations. They have really good swimmers, their coaches are good. It’s just Blue Springs-Blue Springs South, always a huge rivalry.”

South took 10 of the meet’s 12 events. Munoz joined Pluenneke as a multi-event winner by placing first in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly.

Oberlander added that his 400 freestyle relay team has already caught his eye as a potential strength moving forward. The unit registered a time of 3:34.23 Tuesday, more than 12 seconds ahead of the Cats.

“What’s nice about that relay is they’re all sophomores and juniors,” Oberlander said. “We had a talk at the beginning of the year, (and) I think they can go out and break a school record next year. Get a good time at state this year and go down there and we’ll break the school record next year. That’s some extra motivation for those guys.”

Austin Jett (100 breaststroke) and Josh Herrera (diving) claimed the Wildcats’ two victories. And while Tuesday’s effort still netted a defeat, Jett said there’s still plenty of reasons for optimism.

“I’d say we have the closest team that we’ve had in at least three years,” Jett said. “We’re going to move up as the season goes along. It’s the first meet of the season.”
Blue Springs coach Bill Shalley echoed Jett’s point and added that he felt the group actually swam well for its first outing. That said, there’s a lot of room to improve.

“We got beat by a better team today,” Shalley said. “They did a great job. We did our job. ... we just got beat by a better team.

“A lot of our new guys and guys like Austin Jett have changed their technique and have really worked on the things that we’ve asked them to. They’ve done a really nice job and they’re really coming around. ... We just still have a long ways to go.”