Ryan Bubb has won state swimming titles, and he's competed at the Big Ten championships.
But even he had a hard time expressing what he saw this past weekend as the Lincoln Southwest girls put together an astonishing run at the state swimming and diving meet at the Devaney Sports Center.
"That's really hard to describe," said Bubb, a Southwest assistant coach. "The work that they put in all year, and I've been around a lot of swim teams, and I don't think that I've ever seen a team work that hard. They earn everything they get, nothing's given to them."
Southwest scored a meet-record 496½ points and won nine of 11 events (for the second straight year). The Silver Hawks set five state-meet records during Friday's preliminaries and five more during Saturday's finals.
When the Southwest girls took their celebratory jump, it closed a chapter. The seniors helped former coach Bob Calegan and current coach Leigh Ann Fetter-Witt turn Southwest into a swimming power. There are four of them heading to swim at the NCAA Division I level next fall -- Olivia Calegan (North Carolina State), Dannie Dilsaver (California), Sydney Schneider (South Dakota) and Clara Walstad (Nebraska).
Saturday also closed a chapter for Bubb, who was hired last summer to begin Midland's swimming program. The NAIA program will begin competing in 2017-18, and the Warriors will be training and competing in a new aquatic center at the Fremont Family YMCA near campus.
Between coaching at Southwest, coaching at Heartland Aquatics and starting up the Midland program, Bubb has stayed busy.
"I would go up to Fremont three, four times a week," said Bubb, a former Lincoln East and Ohio State standout, who also competed at two U.S. Olympic Trials. "It made for a lot of 16-hour, 17-hour, 18-hour days where I get a few hours of sleep and go right back at it again."
Bubb will be helping with the Heartland Aquatics program before turning his full attention to Midland in May. His goal is to get up to 20 swimmers for his first class, but it could be closer to 12.
Bubb played an integral part in the Southwest program. He was hired after Fetter-Witt was promoted to head coach in 2015, and helped develop the school's dry-land training program. That played a part in Southwest setting numerous school, conference and state meet records.
On Saturday, Bubb gave his final pre-meet speech before the Silver Hawks took to the pool.
"It was an emotional speech for me," he said. "In weights, when they're going to their last set, they always have to yell out, 'Last set, coach.' Today was my chance to say, 'Last set, swimmers.' And it was tough, it was tough, because they're good kids and I'm going to miss each and every one of them."
Norfolk pride: Creighton Prep won its 11th straight boys title, but Norfolk also put on quite a show on the boys side. Led by Cameron Carney's wins in the 50 and 100 freestyles, the Panthers finished in second place in the team standings, becoming the first non-Omaha metro, non-Lincoln school since 1972 (boys or girls) to finish runner-up or better.
"Being from Norfolk, we're not a tiny town, but in the swimming community, we're pretty small," Norfolk coach David Nelson said this weekend. "So were just really happy to go out there and compete."
Southwest aims for more: Southwest may be losing a strong group of seniors, but the Silver Hawks will remain a top contender going forward.
Juniors Alana Palmer, Shelby Mullendore and Kaitlyn Witt scored golds and/or major points at state. Juniors Gator Lunzmann and Josie Ford also swam in Saturday's finals, and sophomores Berkeley Livingston (500 free champ) and Anna Heinrich are among the state's top swimmers. Freshmen Marti Walstad, the young sister of Clara, and Esme Sipp also had strong showings at state.
Capping a career: Calegan finishes with seven state individual gold medals, one silver, eight relay gold medals and three state-meet records (50 free, 100 free and 100 breaststroke). Her name also is on three state-meet relay records. Dilsaver, who missed the season because of a torn ACL, finishes with five golds, one silver, six relay golds and remains the 200 IM record-holder. She also owns a piece of the 400 freestyle record.
Capital City splashes: It was another big weekend for Lincoln swimming. Lincoln swimmers won 10 of 11 swimming events on the girls side. Lincoln has taken 29 gold medals on the girls side over the past three state meets. That's out of a possible 33 swimming finals.
Lincoln Pius X's Caroline Theil will aim for more gold next year, and teammate Katie Stonehocker is just a freshman and already one of the state's top breaststroke swimmers. Lincoln East sophomore Marusha Ather grabbed bronze in the 100 butterfly and placed sixth in the 100 breaststroke, and junior Makenzie Delgado medaled in the 500 freestyle.