The Great Bend High School swim team qualified swimmers in five individual events and all three relays for the Class 5-1A state swimming and diving meet.
The meet begins today and concludes on Saturday at the Hummer Sports Complex in Topeka.
“The way we qualify is new because last year they took out (Class) 6A and made it a separate meet,” GBHS head coach Stephanie Maier said. “So this is only the second year that we’ve done this.
“This is about what we had last year. I think we only had three individuals last year. So this year, we have two more individuals.”
The Lady Panthers qualified for the 100-yard backstroke and the 200 medley relay without the need of consideration time.
Consideration time comes into play when more qualifiers are needed than had met the qualifying times set by the Kansas High School Activities Association.
Freshman Hannah Hildebrand earned the No. 13 seed in the 100 backstroke with a qualifying time of one minute, 7.55 seconds.
“It’s really exciting,” Hildebrand said. “I feel like all of the hard work over the years that I’ve swam has really paid off. I’ve swam since I was 10 and it is nice to see that all of the hard work has results.”
Hildebrand also qualified in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:07.53, getting her the 14th seed in the preliminary race. She also made two of the relays, including the 200 medley and the 200 freestyle.
Senior Jessica Kuhlman will be going to the state meet for the second time in as many years. Katie Heeke is the only other senior going to the state meet.
“It’s great,” Maier said. “The problem is that it is the same weekend as graduation. So the other three seniors could have gone, but they opted out.
“For these two, I am so proud that they are stepping up and finishing what they started. They will remember this forever and they will still be back in time for graduation.”
Kuhlman is the No. 20 seed in the 200 individual medley. She also swims a leg in the 200 medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.
“It’s big to be able to go out on top and knowing that all of the work that I’ve put in over the last four years is finally paying off being able to compete at that level,” Kuhlman said. “This is my second year going to the state meet.
“It makes it a lot easier going in knowing that we are being very well prepared this week. Having that experience, knowing that if we go in there and swim strongly, we’ll come out where we want to be.”
Allison Damm is the third Lady Panthers swimmer to qualify as an individual, taking the No. 16 seed in the 200 freestyle and the No. 14 seed in the 500 freestyle.
This season, the Great Bend swim team won its ninth consecutive Western Athletic Conference championship.
“Garden City tries very hard to beat us because they have some very good swimmers who have now gone all four years and never made it,” Maier said. “They work very hard to try to beat us, but we’ve just been able to stay on top.
“We’re losing five good seniors again this year, so we’ll see how we get our new kids into that position.”
Maier said that the summer club helps Great Bend remain as a powerhouse.
“Our top girls are mostly swimmers who have been doing this for years,” Maier said. “Brianna Schartz and Kylee Spray are the only two that are going to state in swimming that weren’t on the summer club. It does help.”
CLASS 5-1A STATE SWIM MEET
Hummer Sports Complex
Great Bend qualifiers
200-yard Medley relay
18. Great Bend relay (Hannah Hildebrand, Brianna Schartz, Jessica Kuhlman, Allison Damm), 2:09.81.
16. Allison Damm, 2:15.70.
20. Jessica Kuhlman, 2:38.80.
14. Hannah Hildebrand, 1:07.53.
14. Allison Damm, 6:06.53.
200 Freestyle relay
24. Great Bend relay (Sylvia Ofoma, Katie Heeke, Kylee Spray, Hannah Hildebrand), 1:57.05.
13. Hannah Hildebrand, 1:07.55.
400 Freestyle relay
19. Great Bend relay (Allison Damm, Katie Heeke, Brenna Haines, Jessica Kuhlman), 4:19.61.