Bison swim-dive in range of largest state-qualifying group ever

Monday, February 12, 2024

HASTINGS, Neb. - After a successful conference swim meet on Saturday, the McCook swim and dive team may have put together what could be its largest team ever for the state meet. The Bison may also be entered in perhaps the most events in the team’s history for the Nebraska Championship meet.

The Lady Bison added another qualifying relay team during the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference meet in Hastings on Saturday. And the McCook boys will be taking a relay team to the state meet for the first time since the early 1980s, earning a spot in all three relays.

On Saturday at the Hastings YMCA, the McCook girls 200 free relay posted a state-qualifying secondary time, taking five seconds off their best time this season. The relay team of senior Abi Nielsen, juniors Emma Graff and Maryann Kassner and sophomore Abby Renner placed fourth with a time of 1:49.82, a secondary qualifying time. The girls had already posted a secondary time in the 200 medley relay earlier in the year.

On the boys side, the relay team of Kevin Bantam, Blake Rodewald and Derick and Aaron Spencer have already posted secondary qualifying times in all three relays, 200 and 400 free and 200 medley.

Junior Kevin Bantam had a great conference meet, earning gold and silver medals in his two individual events with the bonus of taking times off his personal records. He started out with a second place in the 200 yard freestyle, narrowly losing to Hastings Matt Lauder, 1:52.50 to 1:52.26, but taking more than one second off his PR.

A Medicine Valley student who swims for McCook, Bantam returned later in the meet to claim first in the 100 yard breaststroke with a time of 1:04.37.

Sophomore Blake Rodewald earned second in the 100 yard butterfly with a secondary-qualifying time of 57.13.

For the girls, Abby Renner has secondary times in both of her individual events, earning fourth in the girls 50 yard freestyle with 26:03 and second in the 100 yard butterfly for a time of 1:04.31. Emma Graff placed third in the 200 yard breaststroke, lowering her person best and her secondary time down to 1:15.08.

For all those posting secondary times, they will have to wait and see if their times finish in the top 32 times in each event to reach the state meet. They will know their fate by Wednesday, whether they will make the show at the Devaney Center in Lincoln at the end of February.

Coach Jon Graff is optimistic that along with five McCook relays making it to state, several swimmers will make it in individual events.

“We’re looking at taking the biggest team in McCook’s history,” Graff said. “We can say with some certainty that all five McCook relays will make it down to the state. The other events are a wait and see.”

He added, “This is by far the most kids I’ve taken to state since I’ve been coaching and perhaps in the history of McCook’s program.”

The McCook swim and divers will spend the next week fine-tuning technique work and finalizing the relays. Kevin has swam all three relays all season but with two individual events, he can only do two relays at the state meet.

“We’ll be pulling a fifth team member to fill out the third relay,” Graff said. “We are in a good situation by having this many kids headed to Lincoln.”

Overall, the McCook boys finished third as a team while the women earned fifth place at the conference meet.

Diving kicked off late Friday after a delay with issues at the Hastings swimming pool. McCook’s

Caleb Shaw earned the runner-up spot in the boys diving competition with 302.70 points. For the girls, Emma Graff dove consistently to earn fourth with 267.95, while Maryann Kassner finished fifth overall at 267.30.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: