SJA seventh, MV eighth at first EKL swim and dive meet
Overland Park The St. James Academy and Mill Valley swim and dive teams knew that their first Eastern Kansas League meet would not be easy on Saturday at Blue Valley Southwest.
The Thunder and Jaguars placed seventh (82 points) and eighth (75), respectively, while BV North (374) ran away with the EKL crown. The Blue Valley schools swept the top five spots, as BV Northwest (220 points), Blue Valley (143), BV West (127) and BV Southwest (117) followed BV North. Bishop Miege (112 points, sixth place) and St. Thomas Aquinas (65, ninth) rounded out the competitors.
"I think it went well. It was an eye-opener," Mill Valley coach Dan Dervin said. "You're stepping up with the big boys now between the good 5As and the good 6As."
A couple of the main reasons that Dervin felt the meet went well were the performances of senior diver Mitch Willoughby and sophomore swimmer Chris Sprenger. Willoughby highlighted the meet for the Jaguars by winning the 1-meter dive.
"He was awesome. He was smooth," said Dervin of Willoughby. "He was on his game today. Those are his three best dives."
Willoughby had a brief scare during warm-ups when he clipped his foot on the board during one of his practice dives, but he was locked in after that.
"It broke the tension," Dervin said. "He got the bad dive out the way, and then he did the good dives when it mattered."
Sprenger also found his way to the podium after second-place swims in both the 200-yard IM and the 100-yard breaststroke. The Mill Valley sophomore had a personal-record time by nearly two seconds in the 200 IM.
"I just think he went out and raced," said Dervin of Sprenger. "He embraced the competition, stepped up to the big stage and delivered. It was awesome."
Sprenger's time of 2:01.23 also qualified him for the USA Swimming Speedo Sectionals March 9-12 in Columbia, Mo.
"It was an amazing swim for me," Sprenger said. "That was definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. I had a really good split in the fly and breaststroke, and I was able to come home in the freestyle this time. In the prelims, I almost got out-touched. That was kind of a scare for me, but I did really well in finals."
Sprenger also was the lead leg of the Jaguars' 200-yard freestyle relay. Freshman Colby Beggs, junior Carter Lawson and senior Garrison Fangman followed Sprenger to secure a fifth-place finish for the Jaguars.
St. James junior Nick Callahan matched Sprenger feat by taking home second-place finishes in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles. Callahan was seeded fourth in the 50 free after Friday's prelims, but had a PR of nearly half a second when he clocked in at 22.02 in the finals.
Callahan did not realize how fast he swam until touching the final wall because BV North's Sam DiSette won by nearly two seconds.
DiSette also coasted to a victory in the 100 free, but Callahan said that he enjoys going up against swimmers like the BV North standout.
"It just kind of gives me some motivation to be my best every day and try get better," Callahan said.
Callahan earned two of the Thunder's top-three finishes. Freshman Harry Tjaden came through with other podium-worthy performance with a third-place finish in the 500-yard freestyle. Tjaden added a fourth-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly.
Tjaden was joined by Callahan, Zach Kurland and Kyle Banash in the 200-yard medley relay. The first of the three relays proved to be the best for the Thunder, as they earned a sixth-place finish.
The St. James duo of Jack Petz and Spencer Burkard placed sixth and eighth, respectively, in the 1-meter dive.