By Brett Marshall
In just its second season of existence after more than two decades without a program, the Garden City High School boys swimming team will cap off its successful 2018-19 season on Friday, with hopes of qualifying for Saturday’s finals of the Class 6A State Championships.
The two-day state meet will be held at the Topeka Capital-Federal Natatorium and will get under way Friday with 6A preliminaries slated to begin at 10 a.m. Should the Buffs earn spots in Saturday’s finals, they will hit the pool at 10:30 a.m.
Head coach Brian Watkins is more than thrilled with the way his group has performed, demonstrated by the fact they cut more than 700 seconds off times from the previous season, a goal that original was set at the start of the campaign in December.
“By the WAC (a week ago), we had already cut 604 seconds and we cut another 100 at WAC (the Buffs captured their first league title) so it’s been a successful season for the boys,” Watkins said. “It wasn’t so much about where we finished, but we knew that if we kept cutting time, good things would likely happen.”
All three of the Buffs’ relay teams will compete, with two of them (medley and 200 freestyle) beating the state qualifying marks with times of 1:49.39 and 1:37.15 while the 400-yard freestyle relay team earned a state consideration berth with its 3:45.8 mark.
The medley relay, which is comprised of all 4 strokes (breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and freestyle), will have Connor Cupp, Aaron Schafer, Will Keller and Jacob Partin taking on the four different strokes while the 200-yard free relay is comprised of Keller, Jerry Bunce, Cupp and Schafer. The 400 free unit will have Keller, Nate Hubbard, Cupp and Schafer taking their turns at 100-yard intervals.
Individually, the Buffs will have six different entries, led by Cupp’s state qualifying time of 57.29 in the 100-yard butterfly. Earning spots through state consideration times were Cupp in the 200-yard individual medley (2:14.11) and 100-yard backstroke (1:01.15), Keller in the 50-yard freestyle (24.36) and 100-yard butterfly (1:00.38), and Schafer in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:08.79).
“We’ve had a good second season as a team, and I was elated to win WAC, but that was not our main goal for the season,” Watkins said. “The fact we cut so much time tells me these kids really worked hard the entire season. I couldn’t be more happy with how the boys performed.”
Despite losing five seasons to graduation in May, Watkins says there’s plenty of underclassmen returning to provide momentum for the 2019-20 season.
“We have a good bunch of underclassmen that I look forward to watching swim,” Watkins said. “If we can continue with the momentum of building our team up, we are likely to do some big things in the sport in the next couple of years.”