By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
By the time the final event started at Tuesday’s Central Ozark Conference swimming championship, there was no question who was going to win.
For most of the night, in fact, the eventual champion was clear.
Host Webb City racked up 338 points and blew the competition out of the water in its home pool, claiming the school’s first official COC swimming and diving title in the process.
The performance exceeded expectations for Cardinals coach Shawn Klosterman.
“Absolutely,” he said. “From beginning to end, every bit of it. Just could not ask for a better meet. I love that it was at home in front of a Webb City crowd and it’s awesome for the boys to get their first official COC championship. It feels good.”
Tuesday was a far cry from last year’s championships – the first “official” conference meet – when a winner wasn’t decided until the final leg of the final event. Ozark managed to beat Carthage by four points in the team standings.
There was no dramatic finish this year.
Webb City won the first event and medaled in the first nine while opening up a decisive double-digit advantage less than halfway through the meet.
The 200-yard medley relay of Judah Ritchie, Micah Brouwer, Emiliano Vasquez and Ethan Shipley started off the night with a first-place finish in a time of 1:52.67.
“They were worried they wouldn’t even get on the podium in that one and they ended up winning it,” Klosterman said. “That gets everybody excited and it kind of snowballs from there. It’s fun to watch.”
The Cardinals added an individual championship in the 100 breaststroke, with Brouwer finishing in 1:09.22; in the 1-meter diving, where Carson Forcum scored 390.20 points; and also took first place in the final event of the day, the 400 freestyle relay, where Steve Kenlee, Vasquez, Cody Herndon and Shipley finished in 3:45.12.
Webb City had second-place finishes in the 200 freestyle (Shipley), 50 freestyle (Vasquez), 100 butterfly (Vasquez), 100 freestyle (Shipley), 200 freestyle relay (Kenlee, Zion Wood, Brouwer, Herndon) and in the 100 breaststroke (Wood).
Brouwer also medaled in the 200 IM with a third-place finish, Kenlee medaled in the 500 freestyle by taking third and Logan Thibault was third in diving to earn a medal.
“I knew they’d swim well but not as well as they did,” Klosterman said. “I honestly was very surprised today. Some of those swims were just huge, the improvements.”
There were surprises in virtually every event for Klosterman, who said Shipley had a “heck of a day” and earned his first two state consideration times. Brouwer and Wood’s 1-2 finish in the breaststroke was another highlight. So was winning two relays.
“It’s hard to believe because I think our best relay seed was third coming in,” he said.
Ozark, Joplin battle for second place
As Webb City’s lead swelled to more than 100 with three events remaining, the meet became a battle for second place between Ozark and Joplin.
The Eagles held a seven-point lead through five events, but back-to-back wins for Ozark in the 100 free and 500 free pushed the Tigers ahead.
Caleb Chrestman won the 100 with a time of 52.01 seconds and Trenton Crisp took first in the 500 in 5:44.35, 14 seconds better than his seed time.
Ozark earned medals in six events.
The 200 medley relay of Chrestman, Josh Dean, Mason Waltke and Theron Dakin took third. Chrestman placed second in the 200 IM. Waltke, Luke Jenkins, Dakin and Crisp placed third in the 200 freestyle relay and Crisp, Jenkins, Dean and Chrestman placed third in the 400 freestyle relay.
“I was really pleased with what our guys did today,” Ozark coach Steve Boyce said. “We probably struggled a little bit in the very beginning and they really turned it on. The 100 free win by Caleb and the 500 was unexpected by Trenton but he just went out and went crazy. Took a chance and held on and won a championship. That was pretty awesome in that 500. Our backstrokers and breaststrokers were pretty strong. We knew we had some strength there and those boys just went after it.”
Boyce said the Tigers were missing three swimmers and couldn’t make up those missing points.
“We couldn’t make up enough against Webb City today but it’s pretty nice to take down everybody else in the COC,” he said.
Joplin, meanwhile, still trailed Ozark by only four points with three events remaining but couldn’t close the gap. The Eagles finished with two champions and six medalists.
Ben Wardlow won the 50 freestyle in 23.21 seconds and Zane Reavley, Jonah Hensley, Zane Newman and Wardlow won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:39.52.
The team’s 200 medley relay of Reavley, Wardlow, Newman and Hensley placed second, Reavley was third in the 200 freestyle, Newman placed second in the 500 freestyle and Wardlow finished third in the 100 breaststroke.
Record-setting night for Nixa
Some of the most impressive performances of the night belonged to Nixa, despite the Eagles finishing last in the team standings.
The Eagles had four medalists – each of them took first place, and each set new marks for the COC meet.
Kai Brownlee won the 200 freestyle and set the meet record with a time of 1:57.75. Zane Reavley’s 2019 time of 2:00.80 was the previous mark.
In the 100 butterfly, Ilya Balyuk broke another meet record while finishing in 59.46 seconds. That bested Blake Schamma’s 2019 time of 59.87.
Balyuk added a first-place finish in the 200 IM in 2:10.00, which beat last year’s time of 2:11.03 set by Brayden Cole.
And Brownlee won the 100 backstroke in 59.27 seconds, better than last year’s time of 1:03.23 by Bryce Martin.
Carthage claimed fourth place in the team standings after taking second a year ago. The Tigers didn’t medal in the first six events but placed third in both the 100 free and 100 backstroke. Ezekiel Ramirez swam the 100 free and Kellen Frieling swam the backstroke.
Republic had five medalists: Justice Murray was second in diving, Bryce Martin was second in the backstroke and Seth Lock, Brady Lewis, Shael Wilson and Martin were second in the 400 free relay. Lock took third in the 50 free and third in the 100 butterfly.
Webb City 338