Quality has never been an issue for Lee’s Summit North’s boys swimming and diving team. What the Broncos have struggled with this season is quantity.
Lee’s Summit North won six individual races and two relays in the Suburban Big Six Championships meet Saturday at the Lee’s Summit Aquatic Center. A good haul of gold medals, to be sure, but not good enough for the Broncos to overcome their lack of depth this season.
The defending conference champions finished in third place with 367 points while Park Hill (437) edged out Lee’s Summit West (429) in a tight battle for the title.
“In a conference like this with the teams that we have, third place is nothing to be sad about,” North swim coach Brian Ray said. “We’ve had a rough season. We didn’t have near the number of swimmers as some of the other teams did in scoring positions.
“So considering the way things stacked up, I think a third-place finish in this conference is a great finish.”
Ray had fewer swimmers come out for the team than in years past, and injuries made the squad thinner. And they didn’t help their chances for another conference title when the Broncos’ 400-yard freestyle relay team was disqualified in Friday’s preliminaries.
Still, North has plenty of talented swimmers, most notably senior J.P. Hynes and sophomore Daniel Worth. Hynes set conference records in winning the 200 freestyle (1 minute, 45.57 seconds) and the 50 freestyle (21.42 seconds).
Worth also broke a conference record in winning the 100 breaststroke (55.96) and barely missed another in taking the 200 individual medley (1:53.10).
Hynes and Worth, like the rest of their teammates, hadn’t started tapering for the state meet in two weeks, which means they came into the conference meet after another hard week of practice. They weren’t primed for peak performances, but Ray wasn’t surprised to see them still dominate.
“We worked them hard on Thursday, then we went right into (Friday) and swam and into today,” Ray said. “It speaks to their discipline, it speaks to their dedication to the sport and it speaks to how well they’ve trained.”
Hynes, who edged teammate Andrew Bennett in the 50 free by .08 of a second, didn’t expect to take home two conference records without a chance to rest.
“I’m pretty tired, so I expected some pretty average swims,” Hynes said. “But I guess I was able to pull it out in the end.”
Worth said he felt some fatigue too, which made him all the more excited about his breaststroke time, which was almost six seconds faster than runner-up Dominick Damico of Lee’s Summit West.
“That was my best time ever, which is really cool because I normally can’t do that midseason,” Worth said. “The fact that I’m unrested and untapered and still did that has me really excited for state.”
Jonah Murray earned another gold medal for North when he won the 100 butterfly in 53.69 seconds. Grant Godard won the 100 backstroke in 53.04 and also took third in the 100 freestyle.
Godard, Worth, Hynes and Bennett teamed up to win the 200 medley relay in a conference-record 1:34.52 and the 200 freestyle relay in 1:26.95.
That wouldn’t be enough to catch Park Hill or Lee’s Summit West, which fought back and forth most of the meet for the team title. Park Hill needed a victory in the 400 freestyle relay – the final event of the meet – to clinch the title.
“It’s a victory in our eyes,” Worth said of North’s finish. “The fact that we pulled off third place with such few people is really cool.”
Blue Springs South took fourth with 308 points powered by a one-two finish by Alex Burt and Micah Currie in 1-meter diving. Burt scored 540.40 points, followed by Currie at 507.
Chase Graham took first for the Jaguars in the 500 freestyle in 4:50.64. Aaron Wedel was fourth behind Graham in the 500 freestyle, earning a state berth in 5:05.15, and fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.14). The 200 freestyle relay team of Thomas Branson, Josh Hafner, Wedel and Graham earned a state berth (1:33.29) despite a fifth-place finish.
Blue Springs finished sixth with 163 points. Cogan Davis was second in the 100 backstroke (55.87) for the Wildcats, while divers Josiah Thomson and Ethen Gutierrez placed fourth and fifth, respectively.
SUBURBAN SMALL SEVEN: Wyatt Smith will be the Grain Valley boys swimming and diving program’s first representative at state after leading the Eagles to a third-place finish in the conference meet Saturday at the Lee’s Summit Aquatic Center.
The Eagles, led by a pair of Huffman all-conference finishes, totaled 214 points to finish behind Kearney (574) and Platte County (446) in the team standings.
Huffman claimed second place in the 100 butterfly (55.90) and fourth in 100 breaststroke (1:03.38).
Mark Shackles earned all-conference in two events by taking fourth in the 50 freestyle (24.80) and seventh in the 100 free (55.39). Austin Jacoby also earned all-conference honors twice by taking fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.83) and eighth in the 200 IM (2:35.61).