By Gallagher Martin
WICHITA — It took the largest team in Class 6A to end the McPherson High School boys swimming team’s reign of terror.
Fortunately, the Bullpups will not see that team at state.
For the first time this season, the Bullpups did not take first place at an invitational. Instead, they took second place as Wichita East barely edged the Bullpups by 36 points.
However, 33 of those points came from diving competitions, of which McPherson had no competitors.
Take away the diving scores and McPherson is only three points off from perhaps the best swimming team in Kansas.
“I am more proud of this second place finish than any of the wins we had this season because the level of competition was so high and how we competed,” head coach Matt Morrow said. “Not having a diver or two at meets like this and at state really puts us a disadvantage, but we work with what we have.”
The Bullpups finished 47 points ahead of defending 5-1A state champions Wichita Heights.
In years past, taking second and finishing ahead of the defending state champions would be cause for celebration. But with the dominance the Bullpups have displayed this year, the swimmers are gunning for first place every invitational.
“One thing that really stuck out for me after this meet was the boys were disappointed at not winning,” Morrow said. “Where they have come from two years ago, being so excited at winning their first meet to now having the confidence to believe they should win every time they dive into the pool, that makes me proud to coach these athletes and I hope McPherson is proud of them too!”
The 200 medley relay team of Will Powers, Jori VanGoethem, Justus Hampton, and Dawson VanGoethem shaved time off their state-qualifying time and finished second. The 400 yard freestyle relay team of Dawson VanGoethem, Gavin Soukup, Hampton, and Powers also finished second behind Wichita East.
Individually, Powers was fourth in the 100 yard backstroke and the 200 yard individual medley. Dawson VanGoethem was solid on the day, taking third in the in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 freestyle.
Hampton had a big day as well, especially in the 500 freestyle where he knocked off 12 seconds from his personal best and finished third. Hampton was also fourth in the 100 butterfly.
In total, McPherson has now qualified 10 individuals and all three relays for the state tournament.
Next action for the Bullpups is Saturday at a loaded field in Emporia.
“We've got a competitive fire that really gets going when the competition is at its highest,” Morrow said, “so I'm excited to see how they fair next Saturday when we travel to Emporia.”
Topeka Seaman, Olathe Northwest, and Andover Central are notable teams that will be in attendance.