ST. PETERS, Mo. – Thomas Faulkenberry wore a path between his team’s seating area and the medal stand Saturday afternoon.
And the Lee’s Summit North boys swimming and diving head coach was just fine with that.
The winning coach from each event traditionally drapes medals around each top eight finisher, so Faulkenberry was a frequent visitor to the medal stand because the Broncos won six of the 11 swim finals at Saturday’s Missouri Class 2 championships at the St. Peters Rec-Plex.
“It never gets old,” said Faulkenberry, who is in his first year the Broncos’ helm after several years as their assistant. “Those guys have put in countless hours of work and I couldn’t be more proud that they came here and showed out the way they did. It’s a very special group of guys.”
Chief among the group of North gold medalists was junior Daniel Worth, who left the Rec-Plex with four first-place medals for the second straight year.
“It’s super cool that I could two-peat it,” he said. “The team really came together on the relays. That 2-free relay, it wouldn’t have been done if all four guys hadn’t stepped up.”
Worth joined fellow juniors Alder Harding and Lance Godard and senior Andrew Bennett on the winning 200-yard medley relay to start Saturday’s finals, and then teamed with Bennett, Godard and junior Clayton Adkins to win the 200 free relay.
But, Worth was even more spectacular in his individual events.
In the 200 individual medley, Worth finished in 1 minute, 49.39 seconds to break his own Class 2 record of 1:50:18 at last year’s state meet.
“There was never a point in that race where I was uncomfortable. It was nice to be able to execute,” he said. “I’m pretty excited. This year, I’ve been doing a lot of focusing on just breaststroke. That’s my favorite stroke. I did a lot of lifting this season, a lot more than I normally do.”
The biggest eye-opener, though, came in the final individual event of the day when Worth posted an amazing record-breaking time of 53.53 to win the 100 breaststroke title.
“I’m super happy that I swam 53.5,” he said. “It kind of sucks that I had three events before it, but hey, I’m happy. I’m excited for (the upcoming) junior nationals. I think I have a 52 in me when I’m not as fatigued.”
The old record in the 100 breast had stood the test of time. St. Louis University High’s Jeff Commings posted a time of 54.78 at the 1991 state meet and the mark stood for 28 years before Worth finally broke it in Friday’s preliminaries and again in the finals.
Commings, who would go on to become a nine-time all-American at the University of Texas and finish third in the breast at the 1991 Pan American Games, was on hand Saturday to watch Worth break his record after he nearly did so at last year’s state meet (55.12) and most figured he was poised to it this year.
“I don’t know if he expected it, but I certainly didn’t expect him to go 53,” said Commings, 45. “That’s such a big jump in his time. He’s got a great future. I know he’s gonna really take this and leapfrog into next year because he’s gonna have a lot of colleges looking at him.”
Bennett and Godard claimed North’s two other individual championships.
The duo went 1-2 in the 50 freestyle with Bennett taking the title by a quarter of a second.
“The time, 21:01, is so close,” said Bennett, who won the consolation final in last year’s 50 free. “I’ve never gone a 20-point. That was my main goal and I came that close. I’m so proud of winning, but disappointed about the time.”
Godard shook off the disappointment of finishing second in the 50 free by winning the very next final (albeit with a 20-minute break in between), as he took the gold in the 100 butterfly.
“It was a bit of an add for me overall (from his time coming in to state),” Godard said. “I’m happy with it and it was good to get the win.”
North earned its second straight fourth-place finish and state trophy that goes with it by compiling 226 points. SLUH (314.5), Rockhurst (247) and Kirkwood (234.5) took the top three spots.
“Never take a team trophy for granted,” Faulkenberry said. “This is a really, really good state, so we’re definitely happy with that result. But, as a program, the goal is to get the big trophy and that’s something we’re gonna continue to work on.”
Despite having stellar top-end speed and a bevy of top-four finishes, the Broncos didn’t have the depth teams that finished above them had and that’s what cost them a chance at a higher team finish.
“We’re gonna create the depth in order to match our top-end speed,” Faulkenberry said. “I try to preach to the guys all the time that depth is creatable. There are people that can step up into that top eight heat, which is what we’re gonna need more of in order to get this thing done.”
Blue Springs scored 50 points and finished 16th as a team. Most of those points came from the Wildcats’ three finalists in senior swimmers Tim Schweizer and Cogan Davis and junior diver Josiah Thomson.
Schweizer posted a time of 58.18 to finish third in the breast.
“It’s just crazy that it’s all over,” he said. “Starting as a freshman and not even expecting to make state and then coming here and finishing third is just surreal.”
Davis had a sixth-place finish in the 100 backstroke with a time of 53.59. He became emotional when it hit him that would be the final competitive swim of his life and also by the fact he got to share it with his best friend Schweizer.
“We’ve gone through a lot together. This is so cool to do it with my best friend,” Davis said. “I’m proud of myself and how I didn’t make the finals last year and made top eight this year. It’s the first time in a while we’ve had two swimmers on the Blue Springs all-state board.”
Thomson compiled 450.95 points to finish fourth in one-meter diving, while freshman teammate J.J. Davis just missed the finals in 17th (256.10).
Blue Springs South had 20 points to finish in a tie for 21st place. The Jaguars’ three consolation final relays accounted for 18 of those points. Josh Hafner, Landon Luke, Chason Smith and George Bahr had the best finish (13th) in the 400 freestyle relay (3:24.27).