KSHSAA Girl’s 6A State Championships
Lawrence Free State High School showcased a commanding victory at the 2023 KSHSAA Girl’s 6A State Championships, defending their team title from 2022. Out of the 12 events in the meet, Free State topped the podium 7 times and raked in a total of 364 points, fully 112 points more than runners-up Overland Park-Blue Valley North High School, who finished with 252 points. Free State started their campaign with a victory in the 200 medley relay where the team of Bradie Ward (26.30), Halle McCullough (29.16), Lolly Hindman (26.32), Liza Engelbrecht (24.18) combined for a 1:45.96 to win by nearly 5 seconds. Free State would sweep the relays, with the team of Engelbrecht (24.61), McCullough (24.24), Jocelyn Wilson (24.55), and Packard (23.59) claiming the 200 freestyle relay in 1:36.99. To cap things off, Packard (52.85), Molly Nuckolls (55.78), Wilson (53.77), and Ward (51.11) combined for a 3:33.51 to claim the 400 freestyle relay.
Moments after racing the 200 freestyle relay, Bradie Ward was back in the water racing the 200 freestyle, which she won in a 1:51.87, a personal best by nearly two seconds and a full second ahead of Ella Hansen from Shawnee-Mill Valley, who touched in 1:52.70. Ward later went on to win the 500 freestyle in 5:00.45, another personal best by nearly two seconds and over 5 seconds ahead of Overland Park-Blue Valley North’s Margo Hauser who claimed silver in 5:06.02. Hansen, meanwhile, would produce a commanding victory of her own, taking the 100 fly in 54.36, tying the state record set in 2022 by Annika Finzen and winning by over 2 seconds. If Hansen had equalled her own lifetime best of 53.99 from March she would have owned the record outright.
Finzen, who has committed to swim at Auburn starting in fall of 2024, opted to swim the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke, winning each event and lowering each state record. First, in the IM, Finzen produced a 2:00.93, marking an improvement of 1.99 seconds from her previous personal best. Finzen fell short of the all-classes record of 2:00.28 set by Olympian Caroline Bruce in 2004 just months before she punched her ticket to Athens in the 200 breaststroke. Finzen posted a 1:01.37 in the 100 breaststroke, winning the race by nearly three seconds and coming within striking distance of the all-classes record of 1:01.03, also set by Bruce in 2004.
Free State’s Samantha Packard topped the podium four times Saturday, picking up individual titles in the 50 and 100 freestyles, touching in 23.78 and 52.43, respectively. In the 50, Packard shaved 0.25 from her prelims time, which was a lifetime best, whereas in the 100 she fell just 0.18 shy of her lifetime best. Packard also contributed a 23.59 split on the 200 free relay and a 52.85 split on the 400 free relay. Though she would be awarded the gold medal, Packard actually touched 2nd in the 100 freestyle, coming in behind Overland Park-Blue Valley Northwest’s Sophia Paduano who touched in 51.89, just 0.02 off her best time; however, Paduano was disqualified for a false start due to a flinch on the blocks.
Paduano went on to win the 100 backstroke in a 55.50, just 0.01 off of what she went in prelims, which was an improvement upon her previous personal best of 56.23 from March, and more than 2 seconds clear of the runner-up, Sofia Ellison of Shawnee Mission Northwest who touched in 57.55, which marked a new personal best for her by nearly a second.
Overland Park-Blue Valley Northwest’s Claire Garrelts won the 1-meter diving with 434.70 points.
Top-10 Team Standings
- Lawrence-Free State HS – 364
- Op-Blue Valley North HS – 252
- Shawnee Mission East HS – 180
- Op-Blue Valley Northwest HS – 165
- Op-Blue Valley West HS – 155
- Olathe West High School – 150
- Olathe South High School132
- Topeka-Washburn Rural HS125
- Olathe Northwest High School107
- Olathe East High School – 102