Kayla McGee won her fourth individual title recently as Lonoke had its best-ever showing at the Arkansas 5A-1A High School State Swimming Championships at the Bentonville Community Center.
Led by McGee’s championship in the 50-yard freestyle in 24.34 seconds, the Lady Jackrabbits finished ninth in the team race with 59 points.
McGee also finished second in the 100 breaststroke at 1:07.46, behind Haas Hall Academy’s Corinne DeSpain (1:06.56). She swam the second leg of the 200 medley relay team with Brooke Hill, Emily Armstrong and Haven Dewey as it took eighth in 2:21.77. Haas Hall won in 1:50.95.
The Jackrabbits, qualifying for the first time in the boys meet, took fifth in the boys 200 medley (Jimmy Evans, Peyton Blackard, Tanner Edwards and Colton Tidwell) in 2:00.08. Valley View won in 1:48.02.
Blackard was fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:12.14. Maumelle’s Spencer Hazen won in 1:00.32.
Other Jackrabbit results included Tidwell, seventh in the 50 freestyle (26.30); Evans, seventh in the 100 freestyle (58.37) and 100 backstroke (1:13.73) and the 400 freestyle relay team of Blackard, Edwards, Tidwell and Evans, seventh (4:13.82).
The Jackrabbits finished eighth in the boys competition with 102 points. Lonoke was ninth in the combined standings with 161 points.
“Kayla has gone to state three years in a row by herself, but this year we took almost the whole team,” coach Laura Denson said. “This was a big deal.”
The Lady Jackrabbits also qualified for the freestyle relay, but Armstrong had an ankle injury that made it too painful for her to swim that event, Denson said.
McGee had won the 50 freestyle as a freshman in 25.34, finished third as a sophomore in 24.68 and runner-up last year in 24.49. She won her second title in the 100 breaststroke last year.
“I was really happy with the 50 freestyle,” she said. “I was happy with the 100 breaststroke, but I don’t think I was fully rested for that one. I think I could’ve done better if I’d had more time to rest.”
Having her teammates compete with her made a big difference, she said.
“I was really happy because my entire team got to come to Bentonville with us,” she said. “It helped with my nerves a lot because a lot more people were there to support me. It was so much more fun to be there as a team. We got to go out to eat as a team, and we stayed in hotels together. It was a great end to my senior year of swimming.”
Evans, Blackard, Edwards and Tidwell also finished their Jackrabbit careers.
Denson, who has been the Lonoke swim coach since the team’s inception in 2009, said the seniors had left their mark on the program.
“They have worked so hard,” she said. “They have put so much of themselves into it. They have really focused on their own training and specifically what they need for each of their events. These senior boys went into this season with that mindset of, ‘I’m going to state,’ and they did it.”
The Jackrabbits also had three alternates who traveled to the state meet — junior Will Armstrong and sophomores Jackson Ward and Blaine Henderson.
COMBINED TEAM SCORES
Haas Hall Academy, 536; Pulaski Academy, 405; Magnolia, 293; Batesville, 244; Valley View, 213; Pocahontas, 207; Greene County Tech, 186; Alma, 173; Lonoke, 161.
GIRLS TEAM SCORES
Haas Hall Academy 348; Pulaski Academy, 240; Greene County Tech, 186; Alma, 173; Clarksville, 124; Batesville, 117; Magnolia, 82; Pocahontas, 60; Lonoke, 59; Little Rock Christian, 46.
BOYS TEAM SCORES
Valley View, 213; Magnolia, 211; Haas Hall Academy, 188; Pulaski Academy, 165; Little Rock Christian, 158; Pocahontas, 147; Batesville, 127; Lonoke, 102; Clarksville, 63; Arkadelphia, 50.