There were tears at the beginning of the meet, tears during the meet and tears afterward.

“Tears of joy,” Lincoln Southwest swimming coach Leigh Ann Fetter-Witt said.

On Saturday, the Silver Hawks completed the most dominating performance in the history of the girls state swimming meet. Southwest defended its title, scoring a meet record 496½ points, winning nine of 11 events and setting five more records.

“It was such an exciting day,” Fetter-Witt said. “This is such a special group.”

The Silver Hawks reset day-old records in the 200-yard medley relay and the 200 freestyle relay. Junior Alana Palmer won the 200 freestyle in a state-record time of 1:48.74, and senior Olivia Calegan built on to her place in Nebraska prep swimming history, with two more wins and another record.

Calegan’s final high school meet tugged with her emotions during the weekend. She drew from that in the 100 freestyle, winning in a meet-record 49.48 seconds.

“Just knowing it was my last time swimming it, I just wanted to do it for my team and get it done,” said Calegan, who became the sixth girls swimmer to win seven career gold medals. “It was kind of personal goal of mine, too, the whole season. I was working toward that.”

Calegan later won her third breaststroke title, winning in 1:01.70. She also was part of two record-setting relay teams. The team of Calegan, Clara Walstad, Anna Heinrich and Shelby Mullendore won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:33.95 (they swam a 1:34.07 Friday).

Earlier in the meet, the team of Calegan, Palmer, Walstad and Kaitlyn Witt won the 200 medley relay in 1:39.68 (they swam a 1:39.70 Friday), which was only 0.4 off a national record. That foursome also made up Saturday’s state champions in the 100 backstroke (Walstad), 100 butterfly (Witt), 100 breaststroke and 100 freestyle (Calegan) and 200 freestyle (Palmer).

Palmer posted a time of 1:49.37 Friday to break a 13-year record in the 200 freestyle. She followed that with a 1:48.74 Saturday.

“I felt good and my legs were still intact,” said Palmer, who also took silver in the 50 freestyle.

Sophomore Berkeley Livingston won the 500 freestyle in 5:06.00, then received her gold medal from injured teammate Dannie Dilsaver. And a year after falling just short, Walstad claimed gold in the 100 backstroke, finishing in :54.80.

And then there was Kaitlyn Witt. Her fast start in the 100 butterfly allowed her to hold off Lincoln Pius X’s Caroline Theil for her first state title. When the time was posted on the scoreboard, Witt smiled, and her mother and coach, Fetter-Witt, wiped tears from her eyes.

Witt’s time of :54.77 was another state record, and Southwest now has its name on 10 of the 11 state-meet records, the only exclusion being the 500 freestyle.

“This group never ceases to amaze me,” Fetter-Witt said. “We demand a lot from them and they demand a lot themselves, and I think that just sets things up for a lot of greatness to come from them. They push each other day in and day out.”

Southwest's senior class goes out with three state titles and one runner-up finish. It's a group that includes Dilsaver, a five-time state champion and 200 IM record-holder, who tore her ACL just before the start of season.

Dilsaver's injury was a big blow for the team. Yet, the Silver Hawks never stopped thinking big following last season's state title run.

"I started at Southwest with these seniors (as an assistant)," said Fetter-Witt, who just completed her second season as head coach. "We’ve gotten through a lot the last four years together. So, yeah, it’s kind of bittersweet. It’s kind of hard to let them go, knowing this is the last meet, but I’m excited about what they have in front of them."

Said Palmer, "I love our seniors and it’s just another reason why it’s so hard this year since it’s their last meet. We were swimming for them."

Southwest finished with 23 top-eight finishes Saturday. Omaha Marian finished second with 297 points. Lincoln Pius X (158½ points) was third and Lincoln East (148) was fourth.

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


Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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