By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
WEBB CITY, Mo. – It came down to the final leg of the final event to decide the first official Central Ozark Conference boys swimming and diving championship.
With the winner of the 400-yard freestyle relay taking home a plaque, Ozark’s Caleb Chrestman erased a huge deficit in the fourth and final leg to edge Carthage by less than half a second Tuesday in Webb City.
“We weren’t expecting to be that far behind when Caleb entered the water as the last leg there but if there’s one thing we know about Caleb he’s a clutch swimmer and he used every single ounce of his ability and power and enthusiasm,” Ozark coach Robert Muench said. “He was pumped up for this race and he took advantage of all that and made it happen.”
Carthage led by two points going into that final event but Ozark had the better time on paper. Carthage’s Brayden Cole and Alex Dahl got their team off to a huge lead in the first two legs, but Ozark’s Trenton Crisp closed the gap slightly and Chrestman won it.
“It was really fun to be a part of this besides the outcome,” Carthage coach Braden McBride said. “We scored it on paper the night before and there were no surprises. We knew it was going to come down to the last event. We raced them same four guys last week at our place and it was the same outcome. It was a lot closer this week, half a second. They have an amazing athlete there on the end of their relay that’s pretty special.”
Ozark finished with 288 points and Carthage scored 284.
This is the first year boys swimming and diving is an official sport in the COC and every time and score on Tuesday is now a conference record. With the higher stakes, there was a different feeling when Ozark stepped off the bus earlier in the afternoon.
“It definitely upped the ante when we got off the bus and we were realizing everything’s in stone now,” Muench said. “It put a little more pressure on us. I think if anything that hyped us up just a little bit more. It got us that much more motivated to take control and do what we do best.”
Ozark’s victory snapped a two-year conference winning streak by Carthage, albeit an unofficial one. Carthage claimed six COC titles since the conference’s first meet in 2008.
Ozark was in fourth place after five events Tuesday but surged to a 30-point lead after the 200-yard freestyle relay. But Carthage scored 29 points in the 100 backstroke and 35 more in the 100 breaststroke – which Brayden Cole won – and led 258-256 entering the 12th and final event.
Ozark’s first win came in the 1-meter diving, which was held earlier Tuesday. Kaden Bowling earned a score of 441.95, well beyond the state-qualifying score of 356. Webb City’s Antonio Pearce (388.20) and Asa Morgan (356.65) also impressed in that event.
Blake Schamma won the 100 butterfly for Ozark in 59.87 seconds and teammate Graham Eisenmann followed in second. Chrestman won the 100 freestyle ( 50.48) and then Schamma won the 500 freestyle (5:30.50) with Eisenmann finishing second.
Ozark’s fifth-straight win came in the 200 freestyle relay, where Holton Miller, Mason Waltke, Schamma and Chrestman finished in 1:38.97.
The 400 relay marked the team’s sixth first-place finish.
“There were two that really stood out for us,” Muench said. “Our butterfly we really took advantage. We had a few jumps that we made there with the scoring and that was a good little swing for us. That really gave us some momentum after our break that was continued through our 500 where Blake Schamma, who’s just a really wise senior and raced a very strategic race and pulled it out at the end. Then we had our freshman (Eisenmann) who was able to race past his opponent there at the very end so we had a one-two finish which was fun because it was our senior and our freshman so it’s like our opening and our closer. It was kind of a poetic instance there to finish that 500.”
Carthage’s Cole won the 200 IM in 2:11.03 and the 100 breaststroke in 1:00.07. Carthage was second in the 200 medley relay, and third in the 200 freestyle relay. Ezekiel Ramirez was second in the 200 freestyle and Lucas Carter was third in the 100 backstroke.
“Brayden Cole has been a great leader for the past four years,” McBride said. “He was seeded second in the breaststroke but he knew we needed it and he came down and won so that gave us a couple extra points were weren’t counting on. I was really proud of him for that. We have hardworking kids. In my opinion the two most difficult events are the IM and the 500 and we scored four in the top 12 in both of those. Big points for us.”
Joplin opened with a win in the 200 medley relay. Zane Reavley, Alex Crawford, John Glenn and Ben Wardlow won in 1:45.73. Reavley followed that up with a first-place finish in the 200 freestyle in 2:00.80. Crawford won the 50 freestyle in 22.72 seconds and Wardlow was third. Glenn was third in the 100 butterfly, Wardlow was second in the 100 freestyle, Reavley was third in the 500, Glenn was second in the 100 backstroke and Crawford was second in the 100 breaststroke.
Webb City’s Ethan Shipley took second in the 200 IM. Pearce and Morgan were second and third, respectively, in the diving. Lathen Forester was third in the 100 freestyle. The Cardinals finished second in the 200 freestyle relay and third in the 400 relay. Shihpley was third in the 100 breaststroke.
Nixa’s best finish came in the 200 freestyle where Kai Brownlee finished third. Brownlee was also fifth in the 100 freestyle. Nixa was fifth in the 400 relay.
Republic’s Bryce Martin won the 100 backstroke in 1:03.23. Republic was fifth in the 200 medley relay. Justice Murray placed fourth in the diving and Republic was fourth in the 400 relay.
Webb City 249