In sports like swimming and track and field that have both individual and team components, silver medalists put up valiant efforts that are sometimes overlooked because they weren’t first to the wall or at the finish line.
The swimming championships at the boys’ and girls’ national swimming and diving competitions last week had some of those second-place finishes that were just as remarkable as those who took the top step on the medal podium.
Most notable among these were the results of the same four male swimmers from Elkhorn in the 200 and 400 yard freestyle relays. A quartet of juniors – Ryan Mayo, Jacob Horner, Blake Forsberg and Greg Wehbe – finished second to state champion Lincoln Southwest in both races.
Six of the eight who were on last season’s list of leaders in the 50 freestyle were in the 200m, including Wehbe, who was No. 4 at 21.05 when he led the Elkhorn team in the Friday preliminaries.
It’s a remarkable achievement, considering it was the same four boys in the same order in both races. The Silver Hawks had two of their swimmers — Tyler Reida and Aidin Kolb — on both stints. Omaha Creighton Prep, which finished third in both races, had only Missouri anchor John Watson.
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Elkhorn coach Chris Jenson said the relay quartet is cohesive because the boys have been together for so long.
“They’ve been training together since they were age group swimmers,” Jenson said. “Blake and Jacob were captains this season and showed good leadership. The other two would also have been good captain choices.
Elkhorn led the first three legs of the 200 freestyle relay before Southwest presenter Tommy Palmer split a 20.03 over the last 50 to claim victory from behind in 1:23.73.
It’s the kind of running courage that Arizona’s commitment has become known for during his high school career, and especially in the past two years as he led the Silver Hawks to one pair of titles per state team.
The 1:23.95 time Elkhorn posted for second place made them the fourth team to post a season-best time under 1:24. Prep was the only program to accomplish this feat before Saturday; the Junior Jays clocked 1:22.09 in 2014 and 1:23.45 in 2013.
The Prep quartet in 2022 just missed that milestone finishing in 1:24.06. That 1-2-3 finish translates to 3-4-5 in the World-Herald’s All-Time Top 10 in the 200 freestyle relay. Add Omaha Westside finishing fourth in 1:24.44 — No. 10 all-time — and you have a run that should one day be inscribed in the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Southwest had a slightly larger margin of victory in the 400 freestyle relay – 1.45 seconds. Elkhorn again led for part of the race, this time the first two runs, before the Silver Hawks finished with Kael Mlinek as the anchor in 3:04.94.
Once again, Elkhorn’s second-place finish put all four juniors in the all-time Top 10 in 3:06.39. Southwest is the new No. 3; Elkhorn is No. 8.
Jenson is happy to be back with his guys for the 2022-23 season.
“All four were All-Metro academic picks, as was another key member of that class, Matt Uehling, who finished 11th in the 500 freestyle,” Jenson said. “The junior swimming class in this state is really strong overall, but Elkhorn is fortunate to have an exceptional group.”
Second Grade Eye History
Natalya Woods has just completed her second season at Lincoln Southeast. Already the owner of four individual gold medals, Woods understands and rises to a challenge only one other high school swimmer from Nebraska has.
If Woods is 8-for-8 and matches what Marian’s Karen Criss did from 2003-2006 — winning the same events at state every four years — she, too, will be remembered as one of the greatest in the game. ‘State.
“I’m really excited,” Woods said. “I want all eight, and I’m really proud of myself this year. That’s my ultimate goal, it’s eight. I felt like this year I was more likely to lose than last year.
She also knows there’s still a lot of work to do over the next two seasons, especially since she wasn’t necessarily focused on swimming this past offseason. She then battled four illnesses, including a fever on the Monday before the state.
“I was more out of shape,” Woods said. “This summer, I wasn’t really focused on swimming. I’m just very happy and proud of myself because it was a tough season mentally and physically with all the illnesses and all that. I’m happy to have won. »
These illnesses prevented Woods from matching his first year’s times – 1:49.97 in the 200 freestyle and 5:02.40 in the 500 freestyle. Those times put her at No. 3 and No. 5, respectively, in the all-time rankings for those events.
Not only was Criss the first to win two events in four years, she is the only male or female swimmer in state history to win eight individual gold medals. After Woods completed a 23.15 50-yard anchor split on the Southeast 200 freestyle relay, Woods may want to attempt a 50 freestyle title in 2023 or 2024.