State swimming

Creighton Prep head coach Tom Beck swims the butterfly after his team won the boys championship at the state swimming meet Saturday at the Devaney Sports Center.

AMBER BAESLER, Journal Star

After receiving the boys state swimming trophy Saturday, the Creighton Prep boys took their traditional celebratory dive into the pool at the Devaney Sports Center.

Scattered throughout, the champions eventually huddled on each side of the seventh lane as coach Tom Beck reeled off a celebratory 25-yard butterfly, followed by a 25-yard freestyle by one of the assistants.

The celebration then extended into the nearby diving well.

Creighton Prep extended its state title streak to 11 with another dominating performance this weekend. The Junior Jays won all three relays and added two individual titles en route to a 449½-point showing. Norfolk finished second and Papillion-La Vista/Papio South finished third.

It was Prep's tight win ahead of Norfolk in the 400 freestyle relay that capped it.

“The guys just showed a lot of mental toughness there at the end,” Beck said. “Norfolk was having as good a meet as anybody and they were just on fire, and their confidence level was very, very high.”

Prep senior Caleb Piti was part of most exciting finish of the day. He tied Papillion-La Vista’s Noah Barr for gold in the 200 individual medley. Both finished in 1 minute, 54.10 seconds.

“I would see him out of the corner of my eye, and I knew it was going to be close,” Piti said. “The last 12½ (yards) I put my head down and I thought, ‘This is my second-to-last-race of my life. I’m going to put my head down and I’m going to give everything I got.’”

The 200 IM gave a good sense of Prep’s run through the weekend. Aside from Piti’s finish, the Junior Jays also had third-, fourth- and sixth-place finishes in the event.

Prep’s Colin LaFave swam the best meet of his life, Beck said. The junior won the 100 butterfly in :50.01, holding off Lincoln Southwest’s Nolan Reid (:51.31).

Prep may have coasted in the team standings, but preparations for state were quite challenging.

The team’s normal practice pool was closed after the Metro meet for a construction project. That forced Beck to look for another pool leading up to state.

“We found an hour and 10 minutes of water time at UNO, but that’s if we started at 3:03, and the bell (at school) rings at 2:45,” Beck said.

Lack of parking at UNO led Prep to create a system where parents shuttled swimmers to UNO. But the swimmers were ready to go each day, and Beck thought the shorter practices led to a better prelim round.

“I think it just shows the unity and perseverance that we all have, to overcome the obstacles and just keep doing what we’ve been doing the last 11 years in a row,” Piti said.

2 for 2: Two swimmers each won two individual titles on the boys side Saturday. Norfolk senior Cameron Carney outdueled Millard North’s Trent Mischo in the 50 and 100 freestyles. Carney won those events in :21.20 and :45.97, respectively.

Grand Island’s Matthew Novinski capped a dazzling prep career with wins in the 200 freestyle (1:39.86) and 100 backstroke. Novinski, for a fourth time, set a state record in the backstroke, finishing in :48.72.

“Just overall it was my last state race and I wanted to go out with a bang,” the Wisconsin recruit said.

Novinski became the third Nebraska prep swimmer to win four state titles in one event.

Roh gets two silvers: Lincoln East senior Joshua Roh dropped a lot of time in his events Saturday. He swam a 1:41.43 (just missing a school record) in the 200 freestyle, finishing second to Novinski.

Roh was leading the 500 freestyle, but Lukas Hezel, of Ralston/Omaha Gross, turned on the jets during the final 75 yards to win in 4:42.48. Roh finished in 4:43.94, well below his normal time.

“That was crazy,” Roh said Hezel’s finish. “I’m not even mad that I lost at all. That was amazing.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsCG.

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Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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