For nearly four complete seasons, the Garden City Buffaloes girls swimming team has been chasing the Great Bend Panthers.
They’ve chased them during regular season meets and in the Western Athletic Conference championship meet. And each time they’ve come up just a little short, even as close as a few points in recent seasons.
So when the two teams met for the first time this season on Tuesday at the Garden City YMCA Pool, along with Dodge City, Liberal and Holcomb, the Buffs were hoping for a little home pool magic.
And they nearly got it.
But despite four individual wins and a victory by one relay team, the Buffs still came up on the short end of the final score, as the Panthers finished with 411 points to the Buffs’ 380.
“It’s kind of a satisfying day,” said GCHS senior Grace Schmidt, who claimed two of those individual wins in the 200-yard freestyle (2:13.15) where she edged Great Bend’s Aubrey Snapp (2:16.19) and in the 100-yard backstroke (1:07.87), easily beating the Panthers’ Calista Long (1:14.71). Her backstroke time is just 1.52 seconds off the state qualifying standard.
“I think the WAC is up in the air, and if we get a couple of other times down, move some people around in the events, and get things right where we need them to be, I think we can beat them,” Schmidt said. “We’ve been putting in a lot of yards (in practice) and we’re not really rested, and if we get in a fast pool, I think our times will come down even more.”
Emma Tull captured the top spot in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:15.94) while senior Josie Calzonetti captured the other individual gold for the Buffs, taking the exhausting 500-yard freestyle in a time of 6:46.75, lowering her personal best mark by 1.4 seconds.
“It was stressful because I knew my race could have an impact on the team standings,” Calzonetti said. “It’s tough with all the yards we put in, but I”m having fun doing this with this group of girls.”
Calzonetti, a three-sport standout at GCHS (volleyball and basketball), said the marathon distance was just simply a matter of mind over body.
“It’s like…pain,” she explained. “The first 200 isn’t as bad, but that last 150 is just where you have decide how much you have in you, and how much heart you have.”
Schmidt teamed up with Tull, Kirstin Neff and Ashleigh Chappel to win the opening 200-yard medley relay with a time of 2:06.62, .17 of a second under the state qualifying mark.
For head coach Jennifer Meng, it was heartening to see many of her swimmers drop their season best marks, and yet a little bit of a bummer to come up on the shy end of the score with Great Bend.
“I think if everybody swims their best on the same day, we’ve got a shot,” Meng said. “We had a lot of sophomores and juniors drop times today and that is impressive considering how much work they’ve been putting in.”
Calzonetti had a third in the 200-yard freestyle (2:31.57) while Tull was second in the 200-yard individual medley (2:29.58), Neff and Emily Ortiz went 2-3 in the 50-yard freestyle (27.44 and 29.01) and Neff took third in the 100-yard butterfly (1:11.47).
The Buffs will have nine days of practice in preparation of their next meet, which will be April 19 at Hutchinson.
Senior Night: It was the final home swim meet for five GCHS seniors. The group included Schmidt, Calzonetti, Kaitlyn Chappel, Laura Malagon Palacios and Megan Strecker.
The Holcomb Longhorns’ inaugural swim team placed fourth among the five schools with 108 points, finishing ahead of Liberal’s 91 points.
Lauren Jones placed fourth in the 100-yard freestyle (1:04.08) and fifth in the 50-yard freestyle (29.88).
The 200-yard HHS freestyle relay team of Remmi Knoll, Emma Mangels, Mady Knoll and Jones took fifth in 2:07.06.