The University of Missouri claims to have the “fastest water in the state” at the Mizzou Aquatic Center; a boast that lures a large contingent of the Show-Me State’s strongest high school teams to converge at the COMO Invitational. Team battles and tight races brought inspired swimming throughout the day as athletes continually took a bulldozer to the state rankings. Many of Missouri’s top athletes were eager to make a statement with their first chance this season to meet rivals from other parts of the state face-to-face.
In the end, it was the team from Rock Bridge High School that ended up defeating the defending Missouri High School State Champions by 75 big points.
Team Standings – Top 5
- Rock Bridge High School – 270
- Rockhurst – 195
- Staley – 155
- Eurkea – 145
- Hickman – 139
In the finals of the 200 Medley Relay, the team from Cape Girardeau Central seemed as though their “get ahead and stay there” strategy was going to get the job done. Several teams in the field made only slight advances throughout the race to make up the lead they earned on the 24.43 backstroke split by Reagan Ragsdale. It wasn’t until the very last stroke of freestyle that the hometown Bruins from Columbia Rockbridge stole the lead, and the race, touching 1:37.99 to Cape’s 1:38.02 on the 22.15 split turned in by Caleb Rhodenbaugh. That team (Ryan Gilbert, Zachary Lorson, Paul Cover and Rhodenbaugh) also held off Columbia Hickman who joined in the hunt by the end of the free, finishing third with 1:38.56 on a 21.56 freestyle split by Jason Felten. All three top teams moved past the previous #1 state ranking and set the tone for a night of tight finishes.
In the 200 freestyle, Kearney’s Austin Wolfe (1:44.67) took the third place spot behind two Rockbridge Bruins. Zachary Lorson finished second with 1:44.58, and teammate Alex Tschopp impressed with the new top time in the state, winning with 1:42.96.
The top two times in the 200 IM were also Columbia boys as Hickman’s John Ragsdell held off Rockbridge’s Dane Florea 1:54.23 to 1:54.28. Ragsdell’s 1:53.61 from prelims is the new top time in the Missouri rankings, proving that Kewpie’s are a lot tougher than their mascot would make them seem (yes, that’s real). Sam Drew from Lee’s Summit took the third medal position with 1:56.66.
Hannibal sprinter Lliot Gieseke’s 21.36 was good enough to take the win and the number two state ranking in the 50 free, with Hickman’s Jason Felten and Jake Workman from Blue Springs South rounding out the top three with 21.63 and 22.30 respectively.
Kansas City schools dominated the diving event, with Rockhurst taking three of the top six spots and athletes from Staley, Blue Springs South and Lee’s Summit North filling the gaps. The top three finishers were Rockhurst’s Grant Honnold (404.40,) Staley’s Alex Banning (420.70,) and last year’s MSHSAA State Runner-Up, Rockhurst’s David Knopke impressing with 539.00 points.
In the 100 fly, the top two finishers were also the first and second at last year’s MSHSAA championship, and both were faster today than the 2014 winning time. In this face-off though, Cape Central’s Brogan Davis reversed the order on Rockhurst’s AJ Iseman, leaving him half a second behind, 50.26 to 50.83. Webb City’s Jacob Schultz (51.37) and Alex Tschopp from Rockbridge (51.78) made it four athletes all finishing faster than the previous top time in the state.
Hannibal’s Lliot Gieseke earned his second number two state ranking with his winning time of 46.82 in the 100 freestyle, followed by a close race for second place, as Dane Florea from Rockbridge held off Cape Central’s Reagan Ragsdale, 47.70 to 47.74.
Lee’s Summit North sophomore Liam Bresette might have been the most stunning effort of the night as he easily handled the field in the 500 freestyle, eclipsing the previous top time in the state by over four seconds at 4:38.43. More impressive though, is that he was one one of the few swimmers, (or possibly the only swimmer,) who raced the finals without a tech suit. Bresette was disqualified earlier in the meet for flinching on the block at the start of the 200 freestyle. Had his race been legal, he would have destroyed the top ranked time in the state with a 1:40.4, also in a brief. DeSmet’s Matthew Hilmer made a substantial improvement to finish second in the 500 with 4:41.43, while Kearney’s Evan Holt took third in 4:48.89.
The 200 Freestyle Relay ended with three teams under 1:30 for the first time this season. Kansas City’s Blue Springs South blazed a 1:29.86 and was the only team with two swimmers splitting below 22 seconds with Ben Morgan’s 21.75 and Jake Workman’s 21.98, but they were left in third place by two teams three tenths of a second ahead and only one one-hundredth of a second apart. Rockbridge’s effort would have been enough for the win, but was thwarted by the Rockhurst squad of Tommy Sih, Collin Nill, and Tommy Vopat putting AJ Iseman in position to overtake the Bruins 1:29.54 to 1:29.55, anchoring with the top split of the night at 21.01.
Iseman had more in the tank though, as he stepped up just a few minutes later to finish first in the 100 back with 51.76, nearly two seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Jason Schauld from Staley was second with 53.75, and Eureka’s Brenden Harris took the third place medal with 54.48.
Lee’s Summit’s Sam Drew and Rockbridge’s Zachary Lorson leapt past the one minute barrier for the first time this season in the 100 breaststroke, their times surpassing the previous top time in the state rankings by over a second, in a scary close race finishing only .02 apart at 58.28 and 58.30 respectively. Cape Girardeau Central’s Sam Hahs and Oak Park’s Elliott Eisele-Miller also touched under the one-minute mark with 59.56 and 59.95 for third and fourth.
The 400 Free Relay prelim foreshadowed another close race ahead, with three 3:19’s and two 3:20’s set to battle in the final heat of the night. The race ended with the Rockbridge Bruins letting defending state champion Rockhurst know that it will be hard to hold onto the MSHSAA crown for another year, not just defending their 2014 win in this race, but in overall team score as well. The Bruin team of Alex Tschopp, Dane Florea, Paul Cover and Zachary Lorson fought for the win at 3:14.85, also finalizing their claim of the team trophy. To take the event, they had to hold off another blazing anchor of 46.73 from Rockhurst’s AJ Iseman, who managed to help his team finish second at 3:15.71. Lee’s Summit North was 3:18.00 for third.