by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley swimming and diving team was tired heading into Saturday’s Independence Invitational at the Henley Aquatics Center.
The Eagles swam in five events in the past two weeks, so head coach Kara Liddle didn’t expect any of her swimmers to have their best times.
Her team did have a respectable performance at the meet, however, as the swimmers powered through fatigue. Grain Valley placed fourth with 225 points, and were just 19 points away from earning a plaque as Sedalia Smith-Cotton took third with 244 points.
“We had some good swims today being as tired as we are,” Liddle said. “I knew this wasn’t going to be the best meet for getting our best times.”
Pembroke Hill won with 430 points.
The Eagles are usually at a disadvantage in any meet they are in as the team only has nine competitors on the team. However, even with the low numbers, they were able to finish in the middle of the pack at the Independence Invitational.
Isaac Burd led the way for Grain Valley. He entered the 100-meter freestyle as the top seed. He was second as he finished in 55.15 seconds. He also took fifth in the 50 free and finished in 25 seconds.
“There were a couple of things that I didn’t do right, but overall, it was a good race,” Burd said. “I need to focus on not breathing as much and working on my flip turns.”
Riley Fangman also had a solid meet. He was fourth in the 200 free (2:10.81) and third in the 100 butterfly (1:04.22).
“I felt like I did pretty well and I did my best today,” Fangman said. “I dropped 4 seconds in the 200 and I dropped 1 second in my 100, so that was really good.
“I haven’t been to state before, but this could be the year.”
Liddle added that she was pleased with how Fangman swam.
“Riley swam his two best times, so to do that while being tired is awesome,” Liddle said.
The Grain Valley relay teams also had top three finishes.
The foursome of Evan Reich, Tom Fligg, Landon Gilbert and and Burd took third (1:47.55) in the 200 free relay and Reich, Fangman, Burd and Fligg teamed up to take third (3:59) in the 400 free relay.
“It wasn’t our best, but we still swam really good,” Burd said. “I can tell we are all feeling it right now. We have had a lot of meets lately.
Liddle said the relays are knocking on the door of making a state cut.
“Our relays are our best shot (to qualify for state),” Liddle said. “We are rotating the lineups to see which one works best.”
Some other top eight finishes for the Eagles include Matthew Ditzler in the 100 butterfly (sixth, 11:30.27), Reich in the 50 free (seventh, 25.45) and 100 free (fourth, 56.84), Fligg in the 100 free (eighth, 1:01.65) and 100 breaststroke (fifth, 1:23.38) and Mason Enlow in the 100 backstroke (seventh, 1:16.89).