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Teamwork sparks Panthers' WAC swim title
gb swim1
PHOTO Rick Peterson Jr. KSHSAA Covered The Great Bend Panther girls celebrate the 2023 Western Athletic Conference swimming championship.


KSHSAA Covered 

HAYS -- As the team results were being announced following Thursday’s Western Athletic Conference meet at Fort Hays State, the Great Bend swimmers could hardly contain their excitement.

Before the PA announcer could finish reading the last of the team scores, the Panthers were leaping in the pool to celebrate their championship.

Great Bend won seven events with season-best times to rack up 584 points and win the title by 47 points over Garden City. Great Bend’s girls have won 19 of the past Western Athletic Conference titles.

Emilee Hall won the 100 backstroke (1:05.15) and 200 freestyle (2:15.34) and competed on first-place 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.. Ellyson Somers won the 100 butterfly (1:08.91). Braylee Carper captured first place in the 500-yard freestyle (6:29.53).

“Afterward we knew we had won it, just by totaling it up,” said Great Bend’s Emilee Hall, who earned WAC Swimmer of the Year honors. “We were all huddled up ready to go in the pool. It’s not a feeling you can describe.”

“Garden City is a strong team,” Great Bend coach Klara Gilbert said. “We put out the best lineup that we could to give them good competition. We knew it was going to be close. It was up to the girls to do the best they could. They knew that every single one of them needed to do their best to score as many points as they could.”

All three relays posted season-best times. The 200 freestyle relay (1:54.88) competed with Kamryn Johns, Clarise Snapp, Sydney Kruckenberg and Carper. The 200 medley relay (2:00.27) swam Hall, Snapp, Somers and Josephine Mazouch. The 400 freestyle relay (4:03.22) with Mazouch, Johns, Somers and Hall.

Great Bend punctuated the championship with a big showing in the 400 freestyle relay. The Panthers’ A relay of Ellyson Somers, Kamryn Johns, Josephine Mazouch and Emilee Hall placed first (4:03.22) while Great Bend’s B relay, comprised of Sydney Kruckenberg, Ellie Lutt, Darcy Feist and Braylee Carper finished third (4:31.22). 

“The A and B relays meant so much for the lineup in order to win,” Gilbert said. “They both are very valuable.”

“That A relay, we were not expecting them to win,” said Great Bend assistant coach Matt Gilbert. “We were expecting them to get about third, and our B relay, fifth or sixth. That’s a testament to our depth and the commitment the girls put in all year. That last relay we told the girls, ‘Swim fast, be smart about your races.’ They exceeded expectations.”

Hall swept the 200 free (2:15.34) and the 100 backstroke (1:05.15) in addition to swimming on two winning relay teams. 

“I’m very thankful to go out and swim and have a team that supports me,” Hall said of earning WAC Swimmer of the Year. “They were happy for me, there’s no jealousy or anything. That could have easily been anybody today.”

“She’s a leader by example,” Matt Gilbert said of Hall. “She gets in and does the work. She’s definitely overcome quite a few things injury wise. She just continues to move right along and doesn’t let it affect her one bit.”

Other Panther highlights included Somers winning the 100 butterfly (1:08.91) and Carper winning the 500 free (1:54.88). In addition to the 400 relay, the Panthers earned relay wins in the 200 medley with a 2:00.27 and the 200 free in 1:54.88. Hall, Clarise Snapp, Somers and Mazouch swam on the winning 200 medley team and the 200 free team was comprised of Johns, Snapp, Kruckenberg and Carper. 

“It’s really about showing how you’ve come together as a team,” Hall said of the conference meet. “All season, you’ve hard workouts, rough swims – it happens to the best of us – and it’s just really about coming together, supporting your teams through the up and downs.

“At the end of the day, I was confident in our team’s ability to pull off the win.”

Klara Gilbert is in her first season as Panthers’ head coach. Matt, her husband, is the head swim coach at Barton Community College with Klara serving as assistant coach. 

The Panther coaches said the team’s depth has improved throughout the year. 

“Our high-level swimmers, but also the swimmers that are maybe a step below, less experienced, they really came through,” Matt Gilbert said. 

“It helps build for the future so they can lead in future years,” Klara Gilbert said.

Both coaches joined the Panthers in the pool to celebrate the title, with Klara Gilbert jumping off the diving board. 

“It was a culmination of the whole season, just the excitement, the stress, especially for Klara ” Matt Gilbert said. “She’s been stressing about this meet the whole week, even longer than a week. I think it was just a culmination of everything coming together and it all working out in the end.”

Hays’ Izabel Schmidt continued her strong sophomore season by winning the 50 (24.99) and 100 free (54.69). 

Garden City got wins from Avery Meng in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.27) and 200 individual medley (2:25.58). 

Panthers, Hall dominate WAC swimming

WESTERN ATHLETIC *personal record

TEAM SCORES—1—Great Bend 584; 2—Garden City 537; 3—Dodge City 346; 4—Liberal 255; 5—Hays High 225

50 freestyle—1—Schmidt, H, 24.99; 3—Mazouch, *26.87 (SC); 5—Johns, 28.49;  6—Kruckenberg, *28.53; Gilkison, 3.15; Irwin, *32.74; Damm *44.8

100 backstroke—1—Hall,  GB, *1:05.15 (SQ); 3—Huslig, 1:12.62; 6—Kruckenberg, *1:21.47; Hernandez, 1:32.19; Campbell, *1:35.34; Wood, 2:17.11

100 breaststroke—1—Meng, GC, 1:11.27 (SC); 3—Snapp, 1:21.88 (SC); 5—Gregg, 1:26.75; 7—Caroll, *1:29.97; Irwin, 1:34.77

100 butterfly—1—Somers, GB, *1:08.91 (SC); 3—Huslig, *1:20.15; 5—Mingenback, 1:23.57; Holden, *1:38.14

100 freestyle—1—Schmidt, Hays, *54.69 (SQ); 2—Mazouch, 59.7 (SC); 5—Johns, 1:03.12; 7—Feist, 1:09.29; Gilkison, 1:11.72; Campbell, *1:16.54; Johnson, *1:27.3

200 freestyle—1—Hall, GB, *2:15.34; 3—Carper, 2:24.08; 5—Mermis, 2:31.53;

200 IM—1—Meng, GC, *2:25.58; 2—Somers, 2:33.71; 5—Snapp, 2:51.82; 7—Mingenback, *3:07.15

500 freestyle—1—Carper, GB, *6:29.53.2; 4—Mermis, 6:40.01; 6—Lutt, *7:14.0

200 freestyle relay—1—Great Bend A, *1:54.88 (SQ); (Johns, Snapp, Kruckenberg, Carper); 3—Great Bend B, 2:05.18 (Feist, Mingenback, Lutt, Gilkison); 6—Great Bend C, 2:10.61 (Caroll, Hernandez, Irwin, Mermis)

200 medley relay—1—Great Bend A, *2:00.27 (SQ) (Hall, Snapp, Somers, Mazouch); 3—Great Bend B, *2:16.92 (Huslig, Gregg, Mingenback, Feist); 5—Great Bend C, 2:32.37 (Hernandez, Caroll, Holden, Gilkison)

400 freestyle relay—1—Great Bend, *4:03.22 (SQ) (Mazouch, Johns; Somers, Hall); 5—Great Bend B, 4:38.18 (Kruckenberg, Gilkison, Feist, Carper); 10—Great Bend C, 5:15.82 (Holden, Irwin, Hernandez, Mermis)