Riptides cap successful summer with third-place league finish
The collective face of the Leavenworth Riptides swim team has changed drastically during the past year.
The Riptides have transformed from a small squad with a handful of speedy swimmers to a team of 80-plus members that all have shown rapid improvement during the eight-week season.
At the Lake and Country Club League Swimming Championships on Friday at Wollman Park Aquatic Center, the Riptides showed yet another new look - that of a title contender.
The Riptides had finished last at the league meet for longer than any current team members could remember, but on Friday they placed third, just 54 points out of second place.
"We were hopeful (for second place), and we still had a few swimmers gone because it's summer, but there's always that outside chance of finishing higher because at that point of the season it's not all of your swimmers and anything can happen," said Kelli Denney, who, along with her husband, John Denney, are the Riptides' head coaches. "We were very happy with where we were."
Lake Quivira won the title with 662 points. Lake Forest was second with 540 and Leavenworth was third with 486. Prairie Oaks (Piper) was fourth with 456 points and Fun Valley (Bonner Springs) rounded out the field with 388 points.
"The two teams we beat were the two teams that we won meets against, so we were hoping to get at least third," Kelli Denney said.
The Riptides' strong showing was highlighted by four swimmers who were all-around champions of their age group - a distinction bestowed on the swimmer that accumulates the most points in their age division. Daniel Christie was the all-around champ of the 6-and-under boys' division. Connor Johnson earned the same distinction in the 8-and-under boys' division, as did Dee Dee Tisdel for 8-and-under girls and Alex Johnson for 12-and-under boys.
"Last year I think we only had one all-around points champion," Kelli Denney said. "I'm not sure that we've had four in a long time. Actually, looking back, I'm not even sure what the largest number of high-points winners is that we've had in our team history, but four is quite a bit."
The number was almost higher. Mekayla Depaolis narrowly missed being the overall champion of the 6-and-under girls' division after placing first in the freestyle and sixth in the backstroke. Lauren Jaqua also came close to an overall title after winning league championships in the freestyle and backstroke. She also placed fifth in the individual medley and eighth in the butterfly.
In all, the Riptides won 15 races at the league championships. In addition to the titles by Jaqua and Depaolis, Connor Johnson won five league titles (freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, individual medley), Alex Johnson won four (freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, individual medley), Christie was league champ in the backstroke and Carly Stowe won the 14-and-under breaststroke.
The 8-and-under boys' medley relay team of Jack Reilly, Christie, Connor Johnson and Alex Hamlet was the Riptides' lone relay team to win a league title.
Kelli Denney said she was particularly proud of the Riptides because almost all of them set personal records during the preliminary and final races at the league championships. That showed her that not only were the kids improving, but they still had room to go.
"Given a few more weeks, we might have seen times even faster than we did at the championships," she said.
She said she had every indication that the club would continue to show improvement next year. Most of the swimmers are expected to return in 2006, and the coaches already are looking for ways to help their athletes get faster.
"At our picnic on Sunday there was a lot of talk about what we are going to do next year and how we're going to get better," she said, "so the excitement's there with the team and the parents and John and I as well. We're already looking at things we can do to help them get better with their individual strokes and little things that will chelp them improve the few seconds that we need to edge out the other swimmers."