Girls swimming named Sunflower League champions for first time since 1994

The undefeated champions come home with plenty of hardware and new records

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Girls swimming named Sunflower League champions for first time since 1994

The girls swim team won league on May 4 for the first time since 1994.

The girls swim team won league on May 4 for the first time since 1994.

The girls swim team won league on May 4 for the first time since 1994.

The girls swim team won league on May 4 for the first time since 1994.

By Daniel Davidson, Sports Editor

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OLATHE — The Sunflower League swimming championship ended with more waterworks than expected.

Continuing their undefeated winning streak of nine meets, the Lions took first place at league, beating 12 other schools at Summit Trails Middle School natatorium. This is the first time since 1994 the team left the Sunflower championship with a gold title, making their odds at state seem better than ever.

The first race of Friday made it obvious this season was special. Lions took first in the 200 medley relay and left coach Kent McDonald in tears.

Before prelims ended, senior Emily Guo had already broken two school records in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley. All 17 swimmers in the 12 events advanced to Saturday finals, with Guo ranked first seed in both her individual events.

Although Lawrence ended Friday leading the tournament, the thin three-point margin between Shawnee Mission East kept them focused.

“We all knew that one small mistake could cost us the meet,” senior Morgan Jones said.

Maintaining that lead was on the forefront of Jones’ mind after winning first in the 500 freestyle on Saturday.

“I was really excited to contribute those extra points to our team,” Jones said. “I knew that every single point counted.”

With at least one swimmer in the top eight of every event, Lawrence High’s collective score of 474 points was a true team effort.

Divers Eden Kingery and Beth Brandt helped the Lions by earning sixth and ninth place, respectively.

Guo repeated her success from Friday by finishing first overall in the 100 butterfly, but fell to second in finals of the 200 IM.

Sophomore Aubrey Fischer placed second in both the 100 backstroke and 100 fly. Sophomore Madi Heckman took gold in the 50 freestyle, silver in the 100 freestyle, and junior Marian Frick silver in the 100 breastroke.

East was only two points away from stealing the Lions’ championship spot before the last race. The 400 free relay team of champs Jones, Fischer, Heckman and Guo secured the eight-point lead Lawrence needed to hold onto gold, breaking another school record in the process.

Every member of the team stood together on the edge of the pool in anticipation as results were announced. Only a moment after Lawrence High was named champion did the team collectively splash into the pool in celebration, a privilege they had not been afforded since the 20th century.

“It felt completely unreal,” Guo said. “I was so overwhelmed by the fact that we won. It was a mixture of gratitude and immense happiness.”

The team and their coach, who was fully clothed, bobbed in the pool as they sung the alma mater, many with tears running down their cheeks, ecstatic at what they had accomplished, and more ready than ever before to take on state.