KSHSAA Girl’s 5-1A State Championships
Overland Park-Blue Valley Southwest High School claimed its 5th KSHSAA 5-1A State Championships title since 2010 and the separation of the 1-5A and 6A State Championships, pulling in a total of 270 points. In total, OP-BVS claimed 4 state titles, 2 in the relays and 2 individually.
The all-sophomore team of Mari Griffin (26.38), Kiersten Elliott (30.85), Sophia Mandanis (26.29), and Marisa Scholl (25.26) kicked off the meet with a victory for defending team champion Andover High School, stopping the clock in 1:48.78, nearly 3 seconds ahead of the runners up from Lenexa-St. James Academy, who posted a 1:51.45 for silver.
Wichita Trinity Academy’s Aleca Howard won the 200 IM by over 3 seconds, posting a 2:04.22, taking nearly a second off her previous lifetime best. Howard also won the 100 breaststroke in what would be one of the most competitive races of meet. Howard and Presley Baber of Overland Park-Blue Valley Southwest took it down to the wire for a finish that would separate the two by only 0.09. Baber was first at the 50-yard turn, splitting a 29.96, but Howard came back on the second 50, splitting a 33.33 to Baber’s 33.99 to get her hands on the wall in 1:03.86 versus Baber’s 1:03.95. Prior to the meet, Howard’s best time in the 100 breast was a 1:04.33 from March, whereas Baber dropped from a 1:05.54, also done at Speedo Sectionals in Columbia, MO in March.
Despite the close finish in the breaststroke, Baber had one of the best performances of the meet and left the 5-1A State Championships with 3 gold medals. Baber’s first victory came in the 100 freestyle where she posted a 52.31, a new lifetime best by 0.03, improving upon her prelims time of 52.34. Baber also contributed a 23.98 split on Overland Park-Blue Valley Southwest’s 200 free relay where she combined with Jess Heise (25.90), Miriam Hill (24.98), and Willow Weninger (24.34) to produce a 1:39.20, breaking the previous state record set by Wichita Trinity Academy in 2004 by o.25. Moments after the 100 breaststroke, Baber was back in the water anchoring OP-BVW’s 400 freestyle relay with a split of 52.04. The team of Willow Weninger (53.74), Miriam Hill (54.44), Sophia Sponseller (56.20), and Baber posted a time of 3:36.42, winning by over 3 seconds. Baber swam a very back-loaded event lineup, racing events 7, 9, 11, 12, the 100 freestyle, 200 free relay, 100 breaststroke, and 400 free relay, respectively.
Lenexa-St. James Academy’s Rebecca Pickert pulled off an impressive double winning both the 100 butterfly and the 500 freestyle. Pickert posted a 56.19 in the 100 fly and a 5:04.58 in the 500 free. For Pickert, the 100 fly was a personal best by 0.72, while the 500 was a little off of her best time of 5:02.00 from December. Pickert, similar to Baber, swam a back-loaded schedule, with the exception of starting off the meet with a 26.94 backstroke split on the 200 medley relay, the third-fastest in the field despite not swimming backstroke individually later in the meet. Pickert capped off her meet with a 53.27 split on the 400 free relay, helping Lenexa-St. James Academy to a 4th place finish in the race.
The most competitive race of the meet was the girl’s 100 backstroke, which saw the top-three swimmers finish within half-a-second of one another. Sidni Meister of Altamont-Labette County High School got her hand on the wall first in 55.66 seconds, over a second ahead of her prelims time and a personal best by 0.06. Meister’s victory upset the top-seed, Mari Griffin from Andover High School, who posted a 55.44 in prelims and a 55.84, making her the only swimmer under 56 seconds in the Friday session. Finishing in 3rd was Danica Brunk from McPherson High School who touched in 56.16. Brunk posted a 56.03 in prelims, obliterating her previous personal best of 58.63 from the 2023 Speedo Sectionals Region VIII Championships held in March.
Another triple gold medalist was Willow Weninger, a freshman from team champion Overland Park-Blue Valley Southwest. Weninger captured the 200 freestyle title in 1:54.10, a personal best by 0.42. Weninger was also runner-up in the 500 freestyle with a 5:16.41, and a member of both champion 200 and 400 freestyle relays, contributing a 53.74 lead-off split on the 400 free relay and a 24.34 on the 200 freestyle relay.
Hillsboro’s Lauryn Vogt, a freshman, rounded out the individual swimming champions with a 23.92 to win the 50 free. Vogt also posted a 58.15 to take 3rd in the 100 fly. Vogt was faster in prelims in both races, posting times of 23.84 and 57.48, respectively. Vogt’s previous personal best in the 50 free stood at a 24.95 in the 50 free and a 1:00.63 in the 100 fly. According to USA Swimming’s Individual Time Search tool, Vogt began high school season with 26.66 in the 50 free a club meet in October and a 1:04.93 in the 100 fly from another club meet in January.
Andover’s Emma Todd won 1-meter diving with a score of 400.70, just 4 points ahead of runner-up Emma Holton from Lenexa-St. James Academy (397.70).
Top-10 Team Finishers
- Op-Blue Valley Southwest HS – 270
- Lenexa-St James Academy – 217
- Andover High School – 212
- Wichita-Bishop Carroll HS – 167
- Topeka-Seaman High School – 145
- Wichita- Kapaun Mt Carmel HS – 143
- Winfield High School – 101
- Lansing High School – 97
- Op-St Thomas Aquinas HS – 89
- Shawnee Mission-Bishop Miege – 75