All season long, the rival Blue Valley North Mustangs had gotten the better of SM East’s boys swim and dive team.
They’d beaten the Lancers in the Olathe Invitational to open the season. They’d beaten them in the Topeka Invitational. They’d beaten them in the schools’ dual meet.
But on Saturday, the Lancers finally overtook the defending state champion Mustangs when it mattered most. By putting in a seventh place performance in the 400 freestyle relay — the final event of the boys 6A swim and dive championships at Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka — SM East eeked past BV North to deny them a second straight title, instead earning the Lancers their first championship since 2012.
SM East finished with four more total points than BV North, having trailed in the standings until the final event. SM East has now won three of the five 6A state titles since the swimming championships were divided into two classes in 2010. It was the twelfth boys swim and dive title for the school and the eighth under head coach Wiley Wright, who completed his 30th year leading the team this season.
“These kids showed perseverance throughout the season, and that’s what did it for us,” Wright said. “It was kind of like a last second shot in basketball. It came down to the last meet and the last event before we were able to beat them.”
The Lancers were led by performances from senior Benjamin Schmatz, who won the 100 breaststroke title, and freshman Aidan Holbrook, who took the 500 freestyle. Wright noted that just four members of this years team are seniors, with many of the year’s top contributors just freshman and sophomores, a fact that bodes well for the coming years.
He also noted that the team had shown dedication to allow it to put in its peak performance in the most important meet of the year.
“We tend to kind of start off far behind and as the season progresses get better and better,” he said. “You always want to swim your best at the state meet.”
Wright said he intends to be back next year for his 31st season with the team, “if they’ll have me.”
“I always take it year by year,” he said. “It is a great school with great kids and great family support he said.”
SM East is now the reigning state 6A swim and dive champion for both boys and girls, with the girls program winning its fifth consecutive title last May.