In 2015, SM East’s girls found themselves watching from the crowd for the first time in five years as KSHSAA crowned its 6A swim and dive team. On Saturday, the Lancers returned to more familiar — and enjoyable — territory at the top of the podium.
With dominating outings in the three relays and gutsy performances from a number of individuals, the Lancers jumped out to an insurmountable lead about three-quarters of the way through this year’s meet on the way to a more than 100-point win over second-place finisher Lawrence Free State, which snatched the title from SM East last year.
“The kids really stepped up,” said Coach Rob Cole, who is wrapping up his 16th year leading the Lancers. “When you get to state, you set bigger sights, but you tend to tense up a little bit.”
Senior Sarah Allegri, who will be competing for Missouri State University next year, essentially secured the state title when she won the 100-yard backstroke with a near-record time of 55.65. All the more impressive, Allegri’s backstroke win came less than 10 minutes after she’d swam a leg of the 200-medley relay.
Here’s a look at the team’s celebration once everything was official:
Lancers we will ever be! pic.twitter.com/z0IDSh76wf
— Athletics SMEast (@SMEathletics) May 21, 2016
This year’s win makes it 16 titles for the Lancers since 1975, the first year of girls state competition, and six titles in the past seven years. What’s more, the Lancers will return the bulk of their young, talented squad next year. Crissie Blomquist, who was named swimmer of the meet over the weekend, will be back for her senior year. Fully ten of the 16 SM East swimmers who put in top-eight performances at the state meet will be back for next year’s team, which will only have two seniors.
“We had kids on the bench this year that could have placed,” Cole said. “That’s what you hope to do as a program, is have that depth and be able to say, ‘Okay, now it’s your turn.'”
The Lancers weren’t the only northeast Johnson County swimmers celebrating over the weekend. SM North sophomore Joely Merriman won the 100 yard freestyle and took second place in the 200 yard freestyle.