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Kinder takes final shot at state title
The Central girls swimming team has had individual and relay state champions in the program's past, so the fact Hannah Kinder will go down as one of the program's greatest swimmers when the state meet ends this weekend is saying quite a bit.
Kinder will be joined by several teammates for today's preliminaries and Saturday's event finals in the state meet at the St. Peter's Rec-Plex.
Kinder, a senior, is chasing her first state titles. She was second in two events last year and third in two events as a sophomore.
"We've had several kids get all-state and state champions," Central coach Dayna Powell said, "but the thing that stands out with Hannah, the thing which makes it different, is she didn't do that as a freshman. She started swimming [year-round] after her freshman year, then was all-state. I look at it like after her freshman year, she fell in love with swimming.
"The thing that's exciting about Hannah is she's never been one who looks to be in the limelight. Hannah just quietly gets the job done. It's almost hard not to carry on about her. She just has all the wonderful attributes of an athlete and a student."
Kinder, who signed a letter of intent to continue swimming at Texas A&M, finished second in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events last year. She claimed third in those two events as a sophomore.
This year, Kinder will make a slight change in her state plans, switching from the 50 freestyle to the 200 freestyle. Kinder again will swim in the 100 freestyle.
"I have more of a chance of winning in the 200, and I like it better," Kinder said. "There's less technical stuff you have to worry about."
Added Powell: "The 50 makes me nervous. A bad start or a bad turn in this type of meet, and it's probably over. To be honest, the longer she swims, the better I feel. The longer she swims, the more time she has to get it done."
Success at the club and national level has piled up over the past few years for Kinder. All that's left is to bring home a state crown of her own.
"I wouldn't say there's more pressure. It's more that I want to do better," Kinder said. "I'm more excited and more pumped up. I have more motivation this year."
Standing in Kinder's way in the 100 free is Blue Springs junior Tarin Corwin, state champion in the 50 and 100 freestyle events the past two years. Corwin set state records in both events last year.
The 200 freestyle field should be less predictable. Last year's state champion, Jenna Harris, graduated after setting the state record with a time of 1 minute, 50.4 seconds.
"If you ask most of the coaches, they say that's a pretty open event," Powell said.
Along with Kinder, Central freshman Susan Beth Scott will compete in two individual events. Scott will compete in the 200 freestyle and the 500 freestyle.
Scott has plenty of big-meet experience, having competed internationally in Paralympic events. She competed for the U.S. team in the world championships in South Africa in early December.
"I'm not sure what to expect," Scott said of her first trip to state. "I'm kind of nervous."
The top 16 swimmers move on to Saturday's finals. The top eight earn all-state honors, while the next eight swim in the consolation finals.
"I'd like to think if Susan Beth has her best time, we have a chance to squeeze in there," Powell said. "That would be really thrilling."
The Tigers also will swim in all three relays. Kinder and Scott each will swim on a pair of relay teams. Joining Scott on the 200 medley team is fellow freshman Mary Catherine Ford and sophomores Jessie Baker and Annie Wolpers.
In the 200 freestyle relay, Kinder will join Ford, Baker and Wolpers. Kinder, Scott, Baker and Wolpers will swim in the 400 freestyle relay.
In order to make it to the second day with a relay, Central will likely have to swim its top times this season.
"It's going to be tough to get in," Powell said. "Just the teams we've swam against, even though they are good teams, we haven't been able to crack the top three or four. Having definitely one of the top two fastest freestylers in the state, we have an advantage there, but it will be up to the other girls to get the job done.
"I think we're ready to drop in the 400 free. I'm hoping by the meet we'll be back down to our seed time. To get in it there, there will have to be a significant drop in time. That being said, that's what state's all about."
Notre Dame swimmers
Notre Dame is led by sophomore Brittany Menz, who will compete in the 50 and 100 freestyle. Last year, Menz made the second day in the 100 freestyle and finished with the 10th fastest time. Menz also competed in the 50 free last year.
Bulldogs freshman Lauren Castleman also will swim those two events.
Menz and Castleman also will compete in the relay events. Notre Dame coach Lenny Kuper said he had not yet set the pairings for the three relay events, but the Bulldogs will bring Ashley Nenninger, Ava Andersson, Jackie Bader, Rachel Henson, Jenny Brant, Audrey Glover and Abigail Messmer to state to fill out the relay teams.
This will be the second straight year the Bulldogs will send all three relays to state.
"It's great to have such a young team, too," Kuper said. "If you look at our list, there's only one senior and the rest are freshmen and sophomores."