AquaBuffs improve times at state meet

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School's Avery Meng comes up for a breathe and makes a stroke in the breaststroke portion of a 200 IM race during an April swim meet at the Garden City Family YMCA.

All along, Garden City High School AquaBuffs Coach Jennifer Meng said the primary goal of her team’s performance at the Class 6A state girls swimming meet was to swim their best and perhaps lower their season-best times.

They did just that on Friday at the Topeka-Capitol Federal Natatorium, with the top performances coming from sophomore Avery Meng in the 100-yard breaststroke, where her 11th-place finish in a time of 1:13.16 lowered her previous best mark (1:13.32) and was just 2.31 seconds away from medaling the 8th-place spot.

Also, the 200-yard freestyle relay team of freshman Payton Tull, sophomores Paige Chappel and Meng, and senior Ashleigh Chappel, clocked their season best time of 1:48.31 (.13 of a second faster than previously timed) and was 11th. They were 1.69 seconds away from that coveted medal stand of eighth place.

The 200-yard medley relay team, despite lowering their season best time by 2.51 seconds (2:01.92), finished 17th among the 23 teams. That group consisted of Tull, Meng and the Chappel sisters.

“The relays all lowered their times from their season best, and Avery did that in the breaststroke, too,” said Coach Meng. “So we’re very happy with the results. With so many young swimmers, it was pretty much star-struck with the big event, but it will help motivate them to work harder for next year.”

Ashleigh Chappel, who qualified for the 100-yard freestyle through her consideration time, swam a time of 59.84 and was 22nd. The 400-yard freestyle relay team of the Chappel sisters, sophomore Lana Rodriguez and Meng, clocked a 4:02.90 (.04 of a second faster than their qualifying time) and took 18th.

“We will definitely miss our two seniors – Ashleigh and Mya Garcia,” Coach Meng said. “But we have some new swimmers coming in next year, too, and our returners will be improved, so we have a lot to look forward to in the program’s future.”

The AquaBuffs scored 18 points to place 22nd in the team standings. Blue Valley West took team honors with Shawnee Mission East, Lawrence High, Blue Valley-North and Wichita-East rounding out the top five.

The 2021 season proved to be one of the most successful in many years for the AquaBuffs, as they placed first in six meets (WAC, Marion, two GC Inv., Emporia, Salina South), a pair of seconds at Salina Central and Emporia, a third at Wichita North and a fifth (16 teams) at Wichita Heights.

Meng said that it had been the goal all along to improve times and move up from their pre-meet seeds, and they mostly did that. She said Avery Meng was definitely wanting to get on the podium as did the relay girls, too.

“That’s where everyone wants to get to,” Coach Meng said. “In a normal year, our goal would have been to make the second day (finals), but with it being just one day, what the girls did would have gotten us to day 2 in any other year.”

All but Ashleigh Chappel, and the other senior Garcia, will return for the 2022 season, but the graduating senior was the recent Western Athletic Conference Swimmer of the Year recipient, winning two individual events and swimming on two first-place relay teams at the WAC championship.

“She swam her second fastest time of the year and got under a minute in the 100-yard freestyle,” Coach Meng said. “That’s still a pretty good race for her.”

Garden City Results

200y medley relay—17. Payton Tull, Avery Meng, Paige Chappel, Ashleigh Chappel, (2:01.92).

100y freestyle—22. Ashleigh Chappel, 59.84.

200y freestyle relay—11. Payton Tull, Paige Chappel, Avery Meng, Ashleigh Chappel, (1:48.31.

100y breaststroke—11. Avery Meng, 1:13.16 (Q time was 1:13.32).

400y freestyle relay—18. Paige Chappel, Lana Rodriguez, Ashleigh Chappel, Avery Meng, (4:02.90).