AquaPats make a splash at State Championship with medals, records

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Millard South state team swimmers and coaches pose before the finals round of the 2024 NSAA State Swimming Championships.

Front row, from left to right: Kindsey Joyce (11), Emily Walters (12), Addisyn Storms (11), Parker Schmeiding (11)

Back row, from left to right: Coach Tara Goss, Oscar Edwards (10), Chase Zagurski (12), Coach Rob Wennstedt, Nik Keuser (12), Mason Zadina (11), Coach Tyler Hammond
Millard South state team swimmers and coaches pose before the finals round of the 2024 NSAA State Swimming Championships. Front row, from left to right: Kindsey Joyce (11), Emily Walters (12), Addisyn Storms (11), Parker Schmeiding (11) Back row, from left to right: Coach Tara Goss, Oscar Edwards (10), Chase Zagurski (12), Coach Rob Wennstedt, Nik Keuser (12), Mason Zadina (11), Coach Tyler Hammond

The Millard South AquaPats managed to cap their season on a high note this year. Both the girls and the boys rode excellent performances from state medalists to high finishes, with the girls finishing fifth and the boys finishing sixth.

On the boys side, senior Nik Keuser had an excellent night. Despite getting a disappointing second place in the 50 freestyle, Keuser was able to rebound and smash the competition to secure a victory in the 100 breaststroke, breaking his own school record in the process. Keuser’s 50 freestyle time was even more impressive – it broke a school record that stood for nearly 38 years. 

On the girls side, junior Kindsey Joyce had a career night, capturing a state title in the 100 backstroke and earning a bronze medal in the 200 individual medley. Joyce set new school records in both events, with her backstroke time being the fourth-fastest time in Nebraska history. Junior Parker Schmeiding brought home a silver medal in the 100 butterfly, while Addisyn Storms, also a junior, finished fourth in both the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, with the latter also being a school record. 

The girls 200 medley relay team of Joyce, Storms, Schmeiding, and senior Emily Walters also brought home some hardware, namely a bronze medal and a new school record. The team finished in eighth place during the preliminary round, narrowly qualifying for the championship heat. However, they dropped two seconds in an impressive comeback that saw them nearly upset Westside, the eventual state champions. 

“Nobody expected us to come back like that,” Walters remarked.

The same team competed in the 200 freestyle relay, and, although they missed the school record by three-tenths of a second, they were able to capitalize on a record-breaking start by Joyce and hold off Elkhorn and Fremont to finish sixth. According to Walters, the chemistry of the girls relay team made them dangerous to race against.

We were all super excited and happy for each other. And coming off the high of breaking the school record made us do a lot better in the 200 free,” Walters said.

The boys 200 medley relay team was equally as dominant, also bringing a bronze medal back to Millard South. The team of sophomore Oscar Edwards, Keuser, junior Mason Zadina, and senior Chase Zagurski finished behind only state champions Creighton Prep and Lincoln East in that event. As was also the case with the girls relay team, the boys missed out on silver by, Zadina says, “less than a second”

“It was really close with Lincoln East,” Zadina recalls, “like fractions of a second.”

Zadina placed fifth in the 100 butterfly and sixth in the 100 breastroke. Zadina, who had never medaled at state before, said he enjoyed his taste of being in the limelight wen standing on the podium.

When asked what his favorite part of state championships was, Zadina’s answer was easy: “definitely getting my medals and being recognized on the podium for all my hard work.”

Both Walters and Zadina can agree on one thing after state championships. On both the girls side and the boys side, this team has shown a lot of improvement throughout the year.

 “If you compare all of our times that we did at time trials and compared them to what we went at state, I think we should all be proud of ourselves,” Walters said.

Although Millard South has consistently done well at state championships in the past, the sheer amount of records broken and medals earned places this year as one of the best seasons in recent memory for the AquaPats. Senior like Keuser, Walters, and Zagurski got to finish out their high school swimming careers standing on the podium, and underclassmen like Joyce, Schmeiding, Storms, and Zadina set the bar high for next year’s team, which will return a lot of high-level talent. With the season now over, the returning swimmers and coaching staff now look forward to next year with high hopes and strong confidence, as they have every right to do. This year’s state championship meet proved that the Millard South AquaPats aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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