Here's how the Topeka-area girls swim teams did at the Girls Swim and Dive State Championships

·9 min read

The 2022 Girls Swim and Dive State Championships took place on Saturday at the Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.

Hayden, Seaman, Shawnee Heights, Topeka West, Topeka High and Washburn Rural all had athletes make the cut for the finals with two individuals winning state titles, eight individuals earning medals and one team making the podium.

Here's how all of the Topeka-area teams and swimmers performed at state.

5-1A

Hayden

Hayden freshman Kaylee Gregg competes in 1 Meter Diving during the Class 5-1A Girls State Championships Saturday at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.
Hayden freshman Kaylee Gregg competes in 1 Meter Diving during the Class 5-1A Girls State Championships Saturday at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.

On Thursday, Hayden freshman Kaylee Gregg was one of the top 20 divers to in the preliminaries to make the cut for the semifinals as she finished in 15th place with a score of 133.90.

With the top 16 divers in the semifinals qualifying for Saturday, a score of 210.10 would have her finish in 16th place later that day to make the cut.

On Saturday, the first year diver would place 12th in the state with a score of 300.9.

"She has really grown this year," said Diving coach Amy Watson of Gregg. "She's just a freshman. She's just going to get more in tune with her body and it will really drive her forward, excited about that."

Seaman

Seaman freshman Joslynn Grace competes in the 100 Yard Butterfly at the Class 5-1A Girls State Championships at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center on Saturday.
Seaman freshman Joslynn Grace competes in the 100 Yard Butterfly at the Class 5-1A Girls State Championships at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center on Saturday.

Following a program-best fifth-place finish at state last year, the Seaman girls swim team (175.5) followed that up by setting another program best this year when they finished fourth behind Andover (258), St. James Academy (202) and Bishop Carroll (193).

"The goal was always to improve upon last year and that's what we did," said coach Bernie Tuck. "Had a lot of great swims (today), that's all you can ask for."

Three returnees, senior Gabby Grace and sophomore sisters Tauren and Avery Walz, got back to the state tournament this year after playing key roles in the fifth-place finish last year and were joined this year by Gabby's younger sister freshman Joslynn Grace.

Avery Walz finished third in the 200 IM again this year but improved her time, finishing this year in 2:10.93. She also captured the 100 breast state title with a time of 1:06.03, just beating out Trinity Academy freshman Aleca Howard's time of 1:06.32.

"She just works so hard year-round," said Tuck on the sophomore state title winner. "Constantly pushing herself. To see her get that first place, and i know she felt a little bit of pressure coming in with where she finished last year, I'm super proud of her."

With the experience from last year, Avery Walz came into the year knowing there were a lot of fast times in her two events and just wanted to come out and do her best.

"Let's just go out, have fun and race hard," said Avery Walz on her mindset heading into Saturday. "I was excited for today."

Avery Walz said in the slim win over Howard in the 100 breast, she could see Howard out of the corner of her eye as they occupied lanes four and five.

"I was like, 'She's right there! Let's finish,'" said Avery Walz. "I knew it was going to be close. I look up, I saw I won, and I was super excited. I was shocked."

Seaman sophomore Avery Walz is jubilant after placing first in the 100 Yard Breaststroke at the Class 5-1A Girls State Championship Saturday at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.
Seaman sophomore Avery Walz is jubilant after placing first in the 100 Yard Breaststroke at the Class 5-1A Girls State Championship Saturday at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.

After earning medals last year with a fourth-place finish in the 100 back and a seventh-place finish in the 100 free, Gabby Grace took fourth in the 100 back again this year with a time of 59.84  and fourth in the 100 free with a time of 54.16, improving on last year's time of 55.43 and moving up three spots.

"Gabby has just been fantastic all around," said Tuck on the leadership of Gabby with her freshman sister and the sophomore Walz twins. "Growing as an individual herself and helping her teammates grow throughout the course of the season.

"One of the most supportive and encouraging people that you could ever ask for as an athlete."

Gabby Grace said that with what they had coming back, they were expecting to improve their times and placements.

"It felt really good," said Gabby Grace on setting another program best with the fourth-place finish. "I think we all improved on our best times, improved on our team finishes and our relays improved majorly."

Gabby Grace said she'll remember the team dinners the most, where she got to eat, laugh and spend time with her teammates.

Medaling in the 200 IM and 500 free last year with fourth and third-place finishes, respectively, Tauren Walz made the podium once again this year with a sixth-place finish in the 100 fly with a time of 1:00.39 and a fifth-place finish in the 500 free with a time of 5:26.43.

In her first year of high school swim, Joslynn Grace medaled in the 200 IM with a fifth-place finish in 2:18.50 and a 12th place finish in the 100 fly in 1:00.39, while also stepping into relay roles vacated by graduated seniors that saw them take fifth place in the 200 medley and eighth place in 400 free relays last year.

This year, both relay teams medaled once again, while improving in both relays with third-place finishes in the 200 medley relay in 1:51.28 and the 400 free relay in 3:41.10.

Shawnee Heights

Shawnee Heights freshman Ashtynn Landry qualified for the 100 free with a preliminary time of 59.11 on Friday, placing her in the B final's heat on Saturday.

Landry would finish 15th on Saturday with a time of 58.69.

Topeka West 

Topeka West was represented by two seniors at the state meet on Saturday with Blanca Espinosa and Kadence Jeffries looking for hardware.

Espinosa qualified in the 500 free with a preliminary time of 5:39.28 on Friday and followed that up on Saturday with a ninth-place finish with a time of 5:32.57.

Jeffries capped off an incredible high school career that saw her earn six state titles in six attempts in her three years of high school swim with the pandemic canceling her sophomore year.

Jeffries completed her three-peat on Saturday winning state titles in the 200 free in 1:53.29 and the 500 free in 5:03.55.

"I knew I had to go out and give it everything I had today," said Jeffries on Saturday. "I'm really happy with what I did. All the emotions were there, for sure. I don't think it really hit me until they were handing out medals for 100 back that I was done.

"I was trying not to cry, but I'm really, really happy with what I did."

Courtney Johnson took over the program when Jeffries was a sophomore during the pandemic-canceled season and said she was proud to be her coach.

"Watching her go and shake hands of every competitor on the podium, my heart felt good," said Johnson. "Even though most people wouldn't do that, it shows true sportsmanship."

Last year, Jeffries won the 200 free by 3.51 seconds and the 500 free by nearly 21 seconds better than the closest competitor.

This year, Jeffries won the 200 free by .71 seconds and the 500 free by 2.34 seconds.

"That 200 free, at 1:50 when they were neck and neck, all I could think of was, 'Oh my gosh she's trying to kill me with a heart attack," said Johnson. "Then barely pulling it out with the win was like, 'I can breathe,' then the 500 free she did it again!"

6A

Topeka High

Topeka High junior Brianna Delvin competes in the 1 Meter Diving at the Class 6A Girls State Championship Saturday at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.
Topeka High junior Brianna Delvin competes in the 1 Meter Diving at the Class 6A Girls State Championship Saturday at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.

Topeka High freshman junior diver Brianna Devlin made the preliminary cut on Thursday with ease, placing second with a score of 190.45 as the top 20 divers advanced to the semifinals. With the top 16 scores advancing from the semifinals to Saturday, Devlin had the best with a score of 289.9.

On Saturday, Devlin wrapped up an incredible first year of diving with a fourth-place finish at state with a score of 389.35.

Devlin, homeschooled up until this year with a gymnastics background but not pool experience, joined the swim and dive team at Topeka High after enrolling in January and was highly ranked in the 6-and-11 dives throughout the season and heading into the state.

"It's spatial awareness and knowing where you're at in the air," said Devlin on the gymnastics skills transferring over to diving. "It really helps you get good entry into the water."

After the first meet, she knew it was something she enjoyed but never thought she'd be competing on day two of the state tournament.

"I thought I was just going to be okay at it, not so much good (at it)," said Devlin.

Watson coached Devlin and Gregg this year, both first-year divers.

"I came into the season with zero expectations and they've blown me away with their competitiveness and dedication," said Watson. "The sky is the limit. They can go wherever they want."

Washburn Rural 

Washburn Rural junior Mara Bare competes in the 200 Yard Freestyle Saturday at the Class 6A Girls State Championship at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.
Washburn Rural junior Mara Bare competes in the 200 Yard Freestyle Saturday at the Class 6A Girls State Championship at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.

As Washburn Rural looked to get a bevy of new swimmers experiences this year, the goal was to finish in the top 10 after finishing 11th last year, something the program hasn't done since 2012 when they took second.

"It feels really good," said coach Bob Burdick. "The girls feel really good about it, some of their times aren't where they wanted them to be this year but we had a team goal too. We made the team goal and everyone is happy, we're looking forward to next year."

Juniors Makenna Pritchard and Mara Bare qualified again this year as individual event returnees while the team was looking for improved performances this year from the 200 medley and 400 free relay teams that both placed 15th last year.

Pritchard improved on both events that she medaled in last year, finishing eighth in the 50 free with a time of 25.52 and seventh in the 100 free with a tie of 56.63.

Bare would take fifth in the 200 free with a time of 1:58.48 and sixth in the 500 free with a time of 5:20.29, earning medals in both events for the second year in a row.

The 200 medley relay team of Bare, Pritchard and juniors Kiersten Harris and Taryn Lemke would finish ninth with a time of 1:57.34 and the 400 free relay team of the same four finished 11th with a time of 3:57.94.

Washburn Rural junior Taryn Lemke competes in the 100 Yard Butterfly Saturday at the Class 6A Girls State Championship at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.
Washburn Rural junior Taryn Lemke competes in the 100 Yard Butterfly Saturday at the Class 6A Girls State Championship at Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.

Contact Seth Kinker at skinker@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @SethKinker

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Eight Topeka-area swimmers earn medals at state tournament