Winning a State Championship this year would be SME swim and dive history in the making. Since 1931, East has only won consecutive state championships three times, the last was in 2008.
“It would be crazy to win it consecutively,” Holbrook said. “I’d feel ecstatic about it and frankly honored that I am apart of a team that can do that.”
The Shawnee Mission East Swim and Dive team, led by Head Coach Wiley Wright, will be looking to win their second consecutive State Championship for the first time since 2005. Where the first and only time in East history, they won four consecutive championships from 2005-2008. The competition will take place at the Hummer Sports Complex in Topeka, KS, Feb. 18-20, where East has won six of their 13 state titles.
With intense competition against Lawrence Free State and Blue Valley North, winning state will not be an easily accomplished feat. To help shed seconds off their time and gain points, Wright introduced ‘tapering’ into their practices and has underclassmen step up to the starting block. The Lancers come into state with more than 70 State qualifying times, 13 consecutive League Championships and Wright, in his 31st year of coaching swim at East.
Since he became the head swim coach in 1985, Coach Wiley has won nine state championships and been named the 6A coach of the year four times. With this success, he has built a system to push his swimmers to their very best. He uses the tapering technique to prepare his swimmers for the challenge ahead. Tapering is done to physically prepare the body and the mind for competitions such as state. This is done by increasing the intensity of each swim, and decreasing the yardage of the practices as the week progresses. Because of this change, the swimmer’s muscles are more rested, and they also experience a better quality of sleep, which allows the swimmers to perform at their finest.
“I know that’s a goal [to win consecutive state titles], but I just want the kids to go up and do the best that they possibly can,” Wiley said. “If they swim fast, that’s good enough, if it’s not, we just want to be top three.”
Varsity Junior swimmer Joe McGuire will be swimming the 200m IM (individual medley) and 100m breaststroke, McGuire’s times are 2:05.07, and 1:04.87, respectively. He is looking to drop his times at state for personal best. McGuire talked about what he thinks of the Lancers’ chances.
“Our chances are pretty high [to win state], we have a lot of good swimmers so our team is really deep.” McGuire said.
Being on a team that is constantly in contention for a state title, there is a certain degree of responsibility and expectation for them, however for underclassmen, that pressure is to a higher degree. But some swimmers, like sophomore Aidan Holbrook and freshman PJ Spencer, there has been no pressure, and will be crucial to Easts’ state chances. Holbrook will be swimming events such as the 500 free, and 200 free. Although most of the swimmers that have qualified have two events, Aidan has four.
Being one of the three freshmen swimming at the State Championship, PJ Spencer can’t believe the position he is in now.
“I never thought I’d be able to make it to state at the beginning of the season, to be honest,” Spencer said, “I’m very glad I did, though.”
Spencer will be swimming the 50 free and 100 free, with times of 22.81s and 51.32.
Another key to a team’s chances for the state title are the divers for Shawnee Mission East. Arguably the best diver for the Lancers, senior Henry Sniezek is a leader for not only the underclassmen but the entire team. Sniezek realizes the importance of his role and his last chance at a state title.
“I hope our team can pull through and show to the young freshmen how great it is to win a state title,” Sniezek said.
As one of the four qualified divers for East, Sniezek will be looking to be consistent with his dives and place in the top eight.
Lawrence Free State and Blue Valley North are in contention for the title for a reason. Free State placed third at the 6A state competition the year prior, and Blue Valley North finished in second place. At league this year, Lawrence Free State placed second falling to league champs, SME. Blue Valley North, who won state in 2014, will be looking to defeat the Lancers after falling to them last year at state.
Additionally, a controversial victory was given to Blue Valley North this year at a swim and dive meet at East. Lancers needed to win first place in a specific event to win the meet, but one of the touchpads malfunctioned for the Blue Valley North Lane. Because of this, the time for the Blue Valley North swimmer was instead hand timed and was recorded as .01s faster than the East swimmers. First place in the event was given to Blue Valley North, and they were granted the victory over the Lancers. Furthermore, Blue Valley North have also won their own league title this year for the 7th year in a row.
“I’m feeling like it’s going to be a close one for sure,” Holbrook said, “I’d say we have a good chance at winning it all, but it’s definitely going to be a nail bitter.”