The men’s and women’s high school swim teams from Bryant had a strong showing at the State Championship swim meet on Saturday. The men’s team finished 11th out of 25 teams and the women’s team finished 6th out of 31 teams.
The big news of the day for the men’s team was swimmer Minki Kang, who had a record setting outing on the biggest stage possible for the high school level. Kang, who moved to Bryant from Korea just last year, won two gold medals in his individual races. Starting with the 200 yard freestyle, Kang won the race with a time of 1:42.34, just seconds away from the state record.
However, according to Kang, his favorite race is the 500 yard freestyle race, which may be the most demanding of all the events, 300 yards longer than any other event. From the moment he dove into the water, it was easy to see why Kang favored this particular race. By the time he had finished 100 yards of the race, no other swimmer was close to him. He finished with a time of 4:32.52, a state record.
Kang and his teammates also had a strong showing in the relay races. Bryant’s men qualified for all three relay races and had a strong showing in all of them.
The 200 yard medley relay, which consisted of Senior Casey Ball, Ray Weldon, Minki Kang, and Andrew Ball, finished with a solid 10th place showing. The same 4 swimmers swam the 200 freestyle relay, and were able to place 9th. Their final relay, the 400 freestyle relay consisted of Casey Ball, Jim Dellorto, Senior Nick Hoffpauir, and Trace Rhode, finished 16th. These results were good enough to earn Bryant a respectable 11th place and a great finish to their season.
Not to be outdone, the women’s team had a fantastic day as well. They, too, qualified for all three relay races. Their 200 medley team consisted of Lindsay Butler, Libby Thompson, Katie Higgs, and Kalee Jackson. They had a strong race and were able to finish in 4th place with a time of 2:03.10.
Next up they swam the 200 freestyle relay, which was swam by Higgs, Jackson, Butler, and Reagan Smith. Another great race earned them 5th place with a time of 1:50.02. Their final relay was the 400 freestyle relay. This race was swum by Smith, Jackson, Sarah White, and Julianna Shelton. The girls had another impressive race, finishing in 13th place with a time of 4:27.53.
Bryant’s girls also had 2 swimmers who swam 2 events each. Lindsay Butler, who had a very good day in the pool, swam the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. She finished in 3rd place in the 50 freestyle with a blazing time of 24.69, less than half a second behind Benton’s Hope Ernhart, who finished in 1st place with a time of 24.26.
Next, Butler swam her favorite event; the 100 yard backstroke. Again, it was easy to see why this is her favorite, as she finished 1st in the state with a time of 58.23, with the Bryant team breaking a second state record of the day. Benton’s Jenna Jamison wasn’t too far behind Butler with a time of 1:03.93, earning her 4th place.
Bryant’s girls weren’t done yet, as Katie Higgs had a good day as well. Higgs swam the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke. She finished 13th in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:08.02, and then finished 9th in the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:07.01. Between the phenomenal effort of Butler and Higgs, with a combination of the relay teams, Bryant’s women earned 6th place in the state; an impressive feat by any means.
It wasn’t just the swim team that had a good weekend. The diving team also came out strong on Friday evening. Diver Justin Combs (younger brother of former Bryant swimmer Jordan Combs) finished in 4th place in the 1 meter diving event. Divers Lucas Reitenger and Kaitlin Howey also performed well, finishing in 10th and 13th, respectively. Bryant’s divers are under the guidance of assistant coach Lisa Mundy. When asked if anything surprised her about her first year as a diving coach, Mundy said “It was surprising how my gymnastics background helped me so much when I coached divers. Much of the terminology is the same.”
Bryant swimming and diving teams are coached by Angel Dale, a 7th year head coach, who has seen steady improvement since the creation of the team in 2006. In her seven years, she has coached the Hornets to 4 straight district titles, and several solid showings in the state meets. When asked if there was anything that stood out about this year’s team, Dale said, “They are a very unique group. They really come alive when it’s time to go out there and race. I was proud of the seniors, and how they set a goal to win their 4th straight district title.”
Speaking of those seniors, I was able to catch up with two of them during the meet. Senior Nick Hoffpauir, whose favorite stroke is freestyle, swam in the 400 freestyle relay in Saturday’s meet. He had this to say about his high school swim experience: “I’m really going to miss the people and the connections I’ve made. It will be hard to say goodbye to the teammates I’ve become friends with.”
I was also able to chat with senior Casey Ball. His favorite stroke is backstroke, which he swam in the 200 medley relay, as well as the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. When asked what he would miss about the swim team Ball said, “I’m going to miss the environment at the meets, as well as my teammates and the people I’ve met in the last 4 years. The thing that I will miss the most is how the anxiety builds up as you near the starting blocks, then how everything disappears as the starting horn sounds, and you dive in the water. There’s no other feeling like that.”
As a former swimmer, I could definitely connect with that. It was easy to see the mix of nerves and excitement around the Bryant swim team. It seems with the young talent on this team, that the future is bright for Bryant in the pool.