Maybe it’s the environment of meet. Maybe it’s the bananas.
The Lincoln Northeast boys swimming and diving team captured its fourth straight Gene Cotter Invitational on Saturday at Lincoln High School behind six event titles in swimming to go with Aaron Haeffner’s Friday diving title. They capped the run by cruising to a win in the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay.
“They get up for this meet,” Northeast coach Kyle Hunt said. “The boys wanted to do it four years in a row, so they had some internal drive. We don’t have to wind them up too much. These guys are pretty self-motivated.”
What is it about the Cotter meet that brings out the best in the Rockets?
“The overall enthusiasm creates that environment where we can all swim fast and win bananas,” Hunt said of the meet’s signature gesture -- the handing out of bananas to all heat winners. “Maybe that’s it, maybe it’s just getting bananas to put on the wall.”
Senior Chase Larson and sophomore Caden Feit each finished first in two individual events. Larson won the 200 individual medley in 1 minute, 58.08 seconds, and the 100 butterfly in :53.69.
Feit continues his emergence as one of the top young swimmers in the state. He won the 50 freestyle in a season-best :22.09, and he set a meet record in the 100 freestyle, touching the wall in :48.21.
Feit’s time in the 50 free is the state’s fourth-best mark this season, while his 100 free finish is tops in the state.
“I’ve just really been practicing hard and really just getting going,” said Feit, who credited his improved times to a focus on picking up his arms more.
Feit also anchored the winning 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams, helping the Rockets rack up 280½ points. Kearney was second at 223 and Grand Island was third at 189.
“We have a lot of seniors, and part of it is just kind of letting it happen, don’t hold on too tight,” Hunt said. “They’re loose. They’re fun. They train hard. They come to all the mornings. They don’t miss a set in practice. They hate being sick or injured, and they understand that Northeast has a good swimming program, so they want to keep that going.”
Grand Island repeated as girls team champion with 254 points. Lincoln High finished second with 221 points.
The Links got key contributions from several swimmers. Johanna Schubert won the 200 IM in 2:22.40 and was second in the 100 backstroke. The junior did not swim for the Links during her sophomore season. She was hampered by a shoulder injury.
“I think I’m where I want to be at this point in the season, so that’s good,” Schubert said. “The IM is always good because you have all four strokes, so you can really see where you’re at.”
Junior Anna Sump, who was held out because of concussions last year, was third in the 200 freestyle and fourth in the 100 butterfly, Colleen Arnold was second in the 50 freestyle and fourth in the 100 freestyle, and Katie Smith was fourth in the 50 freestyle.
The Lincoln High girls added a first-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay when Schubert, the relay anchor, edged Grand Island’s Iz Vlach by three-tenths of a second. The Links’ team, which included Sump, Arnold and Emily Smith, finished in 3:57.54, and Grand Island finished in 3:57.84.
“It was the last race,” Schubert said. “Obviously we were all tired and I was just thinking that I wanted to pull through for the relay so we could have a good finish for the meet.”
Two other meet records were set. Fremont’s Emma Walz won the 100 backstroke in :59.22, and Grand Island’s Jonathan Novinski broke his brother Daniel’s 2015 record in the 500 freestyle, winning in 4:48.64.