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On a day full of eye-popping times, Leigh Ann Fetter-Witt couldn't put one moment ahead of another. 

Her team had just completed one of the more dominating rounds in the history of girls state swimming, and the Lincoln Southwest coach was asked if one moment stood out.

“I can’t pick one highlight,” Fetter-Witt said Friday.

There were many, and the coach didn't know where to begin.

In almost a mirror image of the 2016 state preliminaries, the Southwest girls broke five meet records — and nearly set a national mark — during the first day of the state meet at the Devaney Sports Center.

Senior Olivia Calegan set a state record in the 100-yard breaststroke, senior Clara Walstad reset her mark in the 100 backstroke, and junior Alana Palmer clipped a 13-year-old record in the 200 freestyle.

The Silver Hawks also set a state record in the 200 freestyle relay. But it was the day’s first event — the 200 medley relay — that set the tone for the defending state champions.

The team of Walstad, Calegan, Kaitlyn Witt and Palmer set a meet record (breaking last year’s mark set by Southwest) by finishing in 1 minute, 39.70 seconds.

The tone was set.

“Oh, my gosh, yes,” Palmer said. “We were so amped up after that relay.”

The national high school record in the medley relay is 1:39.25. Southwest has been gunning for the record this year, and will get another chance when Saturday’s finals begin at 11 a.m.

Can Southwest puts its name on a national prep record?

“We hope so,” Calegan said. “We’re less than half a second off of it, and it’s just insane to think about. Just a few tenths off of every person and we’ve got it.”

Palmer, who anchored the relay, immediately followed that performance by swimming a 1:49.37 in the 200 freestyle, breaking the state record set by Omaha Marian’s Jenn Kocsis (1:49.87) in 2004.

Palmer also swam the day’s second-fastest time in the 50 freestyle (:23.19) to complete a tough slate of three events within the first hour of the meet.

“It was a nerve-wracking hour, to say the least,” said Palmer, who will aim to repeat as 200 freestyle champion. “This whole season with the duals, swimming so close together, I think that’s helped a lot, bouncing back from events.”

Walstad broke her year-old record in the 100 backstroke, finishing in :54.67, besting last season’s mark of :55.33.

“I felt my tempo was really good, and we’ve been working a lot with my tempo in practice, and my underwaters as well,” said Walstad, a Nebraska recruit.

Calegan, who entered already owning two individual state records, followed by swimming a state-record 1:01.65 in the 100 breaststroke (teammate Dannie Dilsaver swam a 1:02.24 last year). Calegan, a North Carolina State recruit, nearly set a record in the 100 freestyle, finishing in :50.00.

“The first 25 (yards) I was kind of struggling with,” Calegan said of the 100 breaststroke. “Once I got into the tempo, and got through more of the race, I definitely felt the water, and my stroke felt a lot better.”

Calegan said she had been struggling some with the breaststroke. She also had a lighter training load early in the season because of a back injury.

Her performances Friday did not surprise her coach.

“Oh, gosh, that’s Olivia!” Fetter-Witt said. “Olivia, when the spotlight’s on, forget everything else, because she’s just going to bring it.”

Calegan will aim to become the sixth girls swimmer in state history to win seven individual gold medals. She won one as a freshman, two as a sophomore and two as a junior.

Southwest also set a state record in the 200 freestyle relay (1:34.07). The Silver Hawks now have their name on the three state relay records (they set the 400 freestyle mark in 2016, 3:25.16, which was among the nation's top times).

Sophomore Berkeley Livingston recorded the day’s fastest time in the 500 freestyle, and Kaitlyn Witt was the fastest in the 100 butterfly — two more highlights for the Silver Hawks.

“We just kind of told them at the beginning of the week, we said (Friday) is the day,” Fetter-Witt said. “This is where you go lay it on the line and you have to establish where you want to be for tomorrow.”

The Silver Hawks are in the driver's seat to win a second straight state title, and third in four years.

Southwest has 28 entries Saturday — 24 in the finals, and four more in the consolation finals. Omaha Marian, the Silver Hawks’ biggest threat, has 19 entries.

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


Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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