GCHS swimming competes in 6A state meet

Although Garden City High School placed 20th in the Class 6A state swimming meet Saturday at Capitol Federal Natatorium in Topeka, the Buffaloes did improve times. Many of the local swimmers shattered their state qualifying times in the preliminaries on Friday, and many of those swimming in Saturday’s finals cut their times even more.

“I think we out-swimmed our expectations in most cases,” GCHS head coach Brian Watkins said. “We ended up placing 20th in the meet. Our goal was to finish 15th, putting us in the top half of the state. We were only a few finishes away from accomplishing that goal.”

The highlight for the Buffaloes’ performance at the meet was the 400-yard freestyle relay team. Devin Chappel, Jerry Bunce, Kobe Otero and Esai Morales finished 13th in the preliminaries and improved to finish 12th in the event’s finals. The bigger takeaway for Garden City was cutting nearly three seconds off their finishing time in just a day. The team swam 3:28.84 in the prelims and chopped that time down to 3:25.92.

“All four swimmers swam a season-best 100 freestyle on their legs … they were just barely out-touched by three teams ahead of them,” Watkins said. “Esai Morales was on fire the entire meet. His 100 freestyle legs were season-best by 2.5 seconds and his 50 freestyle legs were season bests by 1.5 seconds. No one saw it coming. He could have made the finals in both events as an individual.”

The 200-yard medley relay team of Otero, Lane Durst, Connor Cupp and Bunce finished the meet in 14th place, up one spot from the preliminaries. The Buffaloes swam the event in 1:44.58, cutting nearly a second off their preliminary time.

The 200-yard freestyle relay team of Bunce, Chappel, Cupp and Nate Morren finished Saturday in 14th place with a time of 1:33.33.

Only two swimmers qualified for the finals in individual events for Garden City.

Bunce finished in 15th place in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 22.89.

Cupp qualified for the finals in the 100-yard butterfly, finishing in 16th with a time of 57.31.

Although the team finish was not as good as the Buffaloes wanted, the future of the program has a bright outlook as a majority of the team is made up of underclassmen. Durst is the only senior on the team in the state meet.

“Lane (Durst) stepped up in the breaststroke this year and really became a leader on the team,”Watkins said. “He is just in his second year swimming and had one of the top breaststroke legs in the meet in the prelims.”

Chappel, a GCHS freshman, placed second among freshmen in the 200 freestyle, and was the No. 3 finisher among freshmen in the 500-yard freestyle.

Otero, also a freshman, was the second-fastest swimmer among freshmen in the 200 IM. He is also the Western Athletic Conference’s outstanding swimmer for this season.

Bunce and Cupp are both juniors and will return to the Buffaloes squad next year for their senior campaigns.

“Overall I am super proud of what the boys accomplished. This is just the third year for the program,” Watkins said. “They really want to show the state what we can do in western Kansas. I am so excited to see what these boys can do in the future. We are a fairly young team and I think if we get a little more work in, they can make some noise next year.”