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Hays High swimmers off to strong start

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Hays High School boys' swimming coach Ann Adams was pleasantly surprised after the first meet of the season.

She had more swimmers qualified after that meet than it took until the middle of January last season.

Now only three meets into the season, Hays High already has posted seven qualifying times for the Class 5A state meet as well as four consideration times.

"They are incredible athletes," Adams said. "This is the third season I've been working with them -- not that it has anything to do with me -- but I've watched them grow stronger and stronger."

Much of that success can be attributed to two swimmers: seniors Derek Drees and Blake Mathews, who both ran cross country during the fall.

Drees and Mathews qualified in nearly all of their events at the first meet.

Drees posted qualifying times of 23.81 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle and 1 minute, 2.26 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly on Nov. 29 at Salina South, while Mathews made it in the 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard freestyle in 53.30 seconds and 2 minutes, 2.50 seconds, respectively.

At the same meet, Drees, along with senior Connor Hess, junior Austin Chambers and senior Josh Brungardt, also qualified in the 200 medley relay in 1:55.36, and Mathews, along with senior Cade Sharp, sophomore Morgan Mathews and Hess, made it in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:40.19.

Blake Mathews and Drees also might have made it in the 400 freestyle relay at the same meet, but they disqualified and had to wait until the next meet to qualify, making it in 3:50.15 with Brungardt and Chambers.

"It was kind of cool getting it right out of the way and knowing our main events that we really want to work for we've already qualified for state in," Drees said.

The Indians will compete Wednesday at the Manhattan Invitational at 3:30 p.m.

Adams said it took until January last season to even post one qualifying time, let alone seven.

Nearly all of the swimmers who have posted qualifying or consideration times were a part of the state-qualifying cross country team this fall, and she said the two sports, while not perfectly intwined, do share some characteristics that help one another.

"Cross country and swimming are really big endurance sports," Adams said. "It does (translate). You still have to work on your timing, breathing, the turns and things like the technique, but the endurance is there. They brought it with them."

However, Drees said it still takes time to adjust to swimming since the two sports use different muscles.

"You think you're in shape from running cross country, but then you dive in the pool and swim a 50 and get exhausted from doing that one time," he said. "It's hard work getting back in shape."

Chambers said attributed their preseason works helped greatly in their preparation.

"The two-a-days they put us through before the season actually starts," he said. "... It definitely helps us to work on our form."

With their main goals accomplished, now the qualified swimmers will work on bettering themselves and qualifying in other events.

For instance, Drees already is close to qualifying in the 100 freestyle, and Blake Mathews is close in the 50 freestyle.

With them qualified in multiple events, they can be more selective at the state meet.

"I would see which would help the team the most and which I would have a better chance of getting a better placing at state. That way it takes us a little farther at state," Drees said regarding how he would select his events.

It's not just Drees and Blake Mathews, though. Chambers and Hess also are close to qualifying in individual events.

Chambers and Hess have posted consideration times in the 100 breastroke and 100 backstroke, respectively.

Prior to the season, Adams said she was concerned about finding a swimmer to do the breaststroke well since it's such a difficult event, but she said she found one in Chambers.

"The breaststroke is so hard because your legs have to be incredibly strong, you have to hold them just right and the timing is difficult, but he's got it down," Adams said. "It's looking really good."

Though much has been accomplished in only three meets, Adams said there's still more to do, such as hunting for some school records.

"They are pretty fast, but I think they've got a shot," Adams said.