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Panthers swim team returns five state qualifiers
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Great Bend High School freshman swimmer Justin Kuhlman practices the butterfly at the Kirkman Athletic Center swimming pool. - photo by Kevin Price Great Bend Tribune

The Great Bend High School boys’ swimming team is returning to the pool after finishing in ninth place at the Class 5-1A state meet.
The Panthers will be returning five state competitors and 17 lettermen.
“All of the returning state qualifiers, we have to look to them to get to the state meet again,” Panthers head coach Steve Beaumont said. “We’d like to get all three of our relays back to state. We have to fill some gaps. Obviously, we’ve had some seniors graduate and we have to fill those gaps.”
The Panthers finished in the top eight in the medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay.
Kort Cook competed in the 200 IM, 100 backstroke, 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.
Michael Haines went to the state meet as a freshman to compete in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay.
Josh Prescott made it to state as a part of the 200 freestyle relay.
“Josh Prescott, he’s one of our seniors,” Beaumont said. “He’s primarily a sprinter and he’ll probably swim on both of our relays”
Ian Sheppard qualified for state in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.
“Ian Sheppard, both of our Cook boys, these are kids that have come up through our eighth grade program to do real well,” Beaumont said. “Michael Haines was a freshman last year and placed in both of his individual events. He did real well and will do real well for us again this year in the distance freestyle events.”
Kade Cook also made it to state competing in the 100 backstroke. However, Kade is a Hoisington student who competes with Great Bend because it is the closest swim team.
“We have one swimmer from Hoisington, Kade Cook,” Beaumont said. “He’ll swim with us and when we go to state, he’ll swim for Hoisington.”
Beaumont said that he expects newcomers Dylan Dreiling and Andrew Koster to produce for the team this season.
“(Koster) has the ability to step in and help us out,”  “I think that by the end of the season, him and Dylan are going to be contributing and scoring some points for us.”
Even though he has 17 lettermen returning, Beaumont said that he still has a young team.
“Last year, we were a very young team,” Beaumont said. “Probably only had six or seven guys on the team that had even seen a swim meet. So even some of these returning guys only have one year of experience, only one high school season.
“We’re still a relatively young and inexperienced team. We have three seniors and four or five juniors and the rest are freshman and sophomores. So we are still overall a pretty young team.”
Beaumont said that he team will meet some challenges during the first meet of the season.
“In the first meet of the year, Salina South won state last year,” Beaumont said. “So we are going to find out right off the bat how we stand up against one of the top 10 teams in the state.
“It’s a good thing to go out and see that kind of competition that early in the season, but our biggest meets are primarily at the end of the season. We’ve got three big invitationals to close out the season.”