Saturday’s KHSAA state boys swimming meet was three races from the end, but Ryle coach Jeff Floyd was confident.
“We should be in great shape to finish third,” Floyd said.
Floyd was equally clairvoyant. The Raiders indeed claimed third place at the University of Kentucky’s Lancaster Aquatic Center – their 152 points were five more than Henry Clay’s 147.
“We’ve never been better than fifth,” Floyd said.
Ryle received its trophy – the first time that happened – because of its success in relays. The Raiders placed fourth in the 200-yard medley, fourth in the 200 freestyle and fourth in the 400 freestyle.
“The whole group has chipped in,” Floyd said. “We’ve had five or six boys contribute, plus the six relay boys. We found points, particularly from Garrett Dennis, who qualified 16th and ended up 11th in the 500 (freestyle); that was a huge pickup.”
A few minutes later, Floyd reconsidered – sort of. He also thought what became Saturday’s celebration started two days earlier, when Landon Isler took second in 1-meter diving.
“The 17 points there is gonna be the difference of making sure we get a trophy, which we’ve never done before,” Floyd said. “… The diving started the whole thing Thursday, and it never changed the whole weekend.”
Chase Knopf, Roman Furuta, Garrett Dennis and Blake “K-13” Koenigsknecht started Ryle’s night by placing fourth in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1 minute, 39.10 seconds.
“The majority was Blake bringing it home for us,” Dennis said. “… This is my first time making state, and to place high like that – awesome.”
Henry Clay beat Ryle for third by 43-hundredths of a second for third place in the 200 freestyle relay. The Blue Devils’ Nick Johnson, Eli Greinke, Jack Liau and Cole Bray edged Furuta, Koenigsknecht, Zach Stephens and Andy Pleiman.
In the 400 freestyle, Johnson, Crawford Hightower, Greinke and Bray finished a little less than two seconds ahead of Pleiman, Stephens, Dennis and Knopf.
To Dennis, a sophomore, what happened Saturday will be considered one of Ryle’s great moments.
“But I think we have a bright future ahead of us,” Dennis said. “Maybe get second in a year or two. So I think we could definitely place higher next, but we’ll see.”
Cutcher takes third St. Henry senior Austin Cutcher was Northern Kentucky’s best individual finisher. He placed third in the 500 freestyle in 4:36.61, a little more than four seconds behind St. Xavier’s Jack Augustus’ 4:32.20. “By far the best I’ve finished at state,” Cutcher said. “Last year I got ninth in the 500, so it’s a big step up.”
Cutcher swam the first 100 in 52.35. “I felt really strong, I felt great about how I was going out,” he said.
The final 100, however, Cutcher mightily struggled.
“I had barely enough energy to be able to finish that race at that point,” Cutcher said.
Highlands places sixth
Louisville St. Xavier overwhelmed the field for the 35th straight time and 59th in state history. The Tigers beat Paul Laurence Dunbar, 513-232.
Highlands finished sixth with 104 points – not as high as finishing second in 2021 and 2020, but Bluebirds coach Amanda Johnson was nonetheless pleased.
“We were 10th last year, we were sixth this year,” Johnson said. “We were only two points behind fifth (Louisville Trinity), so that’s an improvement over last year.”
Perhaps the biggest improvement was Highlands’ 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, good enough for 50 points.
Individually, sophomore Griffin Barlow finished fifth in the 100 breaststroke (57.81) and seventh in the 200 individual medley (1:57.17), and senior Evan Jones was eighth in the 500 freestyle (4:45.07).
For complete boys results, visit https://khsaa.org/swimming/2023/state/index.htm.