Broncos' Worth adds to state title haul but not satisfied

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Lee's Summit North senior Daniel Worth swims to a fourth straight state title in the 100-yard breaststroke in the Class 2 Missouri State High School Championships Friday at the St. Peters Rec-Plex. Worth added three state titles, giving him 13 for his career - including relays - as the Broncos finished sixth as a team.

ST. PETERS, Mo. — Daniel Worth capped off his illustrious career with three more state championships but he left the St. Peters Rec-Plex wanting more.

The Lee’s Summit North senior went 3-for-4 when it came to earning gold medals during the Class 2 Missouri State High School Boys Swimming and Diving Championships Friday night.

The University of Virginia signee won the 100-yard breaststroke for the fourth time in his career and added an individual title in the 100-yard butterfly, while swimming the second leg of the 200-yard medley relay that set a Class 2 and overall state record.

The only one that came up short was the 200-yard freestyle relay. The Broncos finished third in a race in which the top six teams were from the Kansas City metro.

“I was hoping for sure for four (titles) and I was hoping the individual golds would come differently,” said Worth, who finished his career with 13 first-place medals in four years. “I wasn’t fast (in the individual titles). Not good times for me.”

He leaves as the record holder in the 100 breaststroke in Class 2 and overall mark from last year’s state meet and then set the new Class 2 record in the butterfly (48.57 seconds) on Friday. He broke the Class 2 record held by August Brandt of CBC of 48.62 seconds, set in 2018. In that race, Worth held off a charge from Lee’s Summit West’s Caleb Ellis.

In the breaststroke this year, Worth finished in 54.15 – a rather comfortable margin of victory over Park Hill South’s Zander Livingston, who finished in 57.47. Worth’s state record in the event is 53.53.

The first medal of the day was the first event of the day, the 200-yard medley relay. Senior Alder Harding led off, followed by Worth, then Clayton Adkins and Kyle Forlow. The final time was 1:32.33, which reset a record Lee’s Summit North accomplished last year with Worth on the team. The previous overall record was 1:32.63, set by Cape Girardeau Central 2016 – in the old one-class system.

“It was exciting to watch Daniel, but if you talk to him, he would be a little upset with how he swam,” Lee’s Summit North coach Thomas Faulkenberry said. “There is something to be said for winning four breaststroke titles and winning seven individual titles. As a whole, beyond the titles, the leader he became; the young man he grew into are all things as a coach I couldn’t be more proud of.”

The Broncos came up short in a quest to bring home a fourth straight trophy, after taking fourth (2018, 2019) and third (2017). They did have a chance, sitting in fifth place and only 1.5 points out of fourth place. However, the Broncos finished 10th in the 400 freestyle relay, the final event, and Kirkwood held on to fourth place.

The Broncos finished sixth overall, getting jumped by SLUH, the defending two-time Class 2 champion that finished 10.5 points ahead.

“We started the meet off on a high note but some of the swims in the middle and the end, I wish we could go back and flip the script, but overall I’m very happy with the way we competed,” Faulkenberry said. “It was definitely a goal to bring home a trophy and we talked about it going into the meet. We had our self in a pretty good position going into the last three or four events.”

The top three were all Kansas City schools: Rockhurst won the title, followed by Park Hill South and Lee’s Summit West. Lee’s Summit North was in contention for a trophy throughout the day but still had success despite Faulkenberry not being there. The leader was back home under quarantine and assistant coach Melissa Bennett led the Broncos.

“I thought they responded well and I knew going into it despite me not being there we would be ready for it,” he said. “It is hard to make up for the emotional aspect for me not being there is brutal to see six seniors that helped build this program up for four years to wrap up their careers. I think it was really hard on the guys not having me as well, but I can’t say enough about how much Melissa carried the load and put us in a position to be successful all day.”

The Broncos got a solid day from Forlow, who went from swimming on one relay last year to earning all-state medals four times. The senior was the runner-up in the 50 freestyle, tying with Ozark’s Caleb Chrestman at 21.55 seconds despite the two swimming three lanes apart.

Forlow added a seventh in the 100 freestyle (48.23), while Adkins just missed an all-state medal by placing ninth. Add in Grant Idoux’s 14th-place showing, Lee’s Summit North got 34 points in the event. Ben Luna took 15th in the 100 breaststroke.

The relay team of Forlow, Adkins, Harding and Worth finished third in the 200 freestyle.

Blue Springs South finished eighth in the team standings, while Blue Springs took 20th out of the 31 teams that scored points.

All three of the Jaguars relays earned all-state honors, led by a fifth-place showing in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:30.14. The team featured sophomores Carter McIntosh and Broedy Gilburn and seniors Ryan Griffel and Luke Fournier.

McIntosh, Griffel, junior George Bahr and senior Chason Smith swam the 400 freestyle relay in 3:18.67 to place seventh. The 200 medley team of Griffel, Bahr, McIntosh and senior Landon Luke was eighth (1:39.37) – winning the second heat and jumping into the proverbial medal stand after being seeded ninth. The top eight teams medaled but during COVID-19 precautions relay teams and individual medalists didn’t have the usual award ceremony – and there were no fans present as well due to St. Louis County restrictions.

“Seeing how good all of our relays did, they performed amazing,” said Griffel, who also finished 15th in the 100 backstroke. “It was a really fun experience. I think just the morale and how we pushed each other and helped each other out. We gave it all we got, especially the seniors. It was our last meet and I know I’m not going to swim in college so this was my last meet, so I left it all out there.”

While his swimming career ended in high school, Griffel will be back in St. Louis soon. He has a recruiting visit lined up with the Missouri Baptist University men’s volleyball coaching staff on Monday.

Bahr added a pair of top-16 finishes for the Jaguars, taking 10th in the 200 freestyle and 11th in the 500 freestyle. McIntosh showed a vast improvement in time in the 100 freestyle, moving from being seeded 23rd to finishing 13th and earning points.

“We talked to our guys about how loaded our conference was,” Blue Springs South coach Errich Oberlander said. “We go against the best in the state every year in our own conference. We were fifth at conference and we are eighth at the state meet. That shows how deep and how fast our conference is. We got all three relays in the top eight for the first time since I’ve been here. I was telling a couple other coaches we have a bunch of athletes that decided to be swimmers. It’s been fun to see the progression over the years. We were just solid all day and we couldn’t swim much better than we did.”

Blue Springs’ top finish in the swimming portion was from senior Gabe Marthaler, who finished 20th in the 100 breaststroke. That was an event dominated by Kansas City-area schools with 15 of the top 20 finishers and seven of the eight all-staters from the metro area.

Blue Springs had two divers make the finals earlier in the day, with senior Josiah Thomson taking fourth place and sophomore J.J. Davis finishing 11th to earn points.