LINCOLN — The Omaha Creighton Prep swimming team graduated 12 seniors from last season's state championship club, but coach Tom Beck had a message for this year's group heading into the state swim meet.
"I told them, 'Tradition doesn't graduate,'" Beck said.
The Junior Jays indoctrinated a whole new group into their championship tradition Saturday, easily winning the school's sixth straight state title with 306 points — 143 points ahead of runner-up Lincoln East.
After winning four individual titles and three relays last year, Prep sent fewer swimmers to the top of the podium this year but dominated the state meet with its depth. The Junior Jays got points from 18 qualifiers in the championship rounds and six more swimmers in consolation heats.
"It's really an achievement because last year we graduated the greatest senior class probably ever," senior Matt Medara said. "We hoped to win state, but we knew the other teams were out to get us. That just helped us work harder all year."
Senior Will Raynor capped his high school career with individual titles in the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke — Prep's only individual crowns — and the Junior Jays also won relay titles in the 200 and 400 freestyle. But it was Prep's consistency that led it to another championship chapter in the school's dynasty.
Prep had 14 swimmers finish in second through sixth place, and five more finished first in their consolation finals. The Junior Jays scored 49 points in the 200 individual medley alone, with senior Louis Landon finishing second behind Raynor. Freshman Ryan Tate finished fourth, and junior Szymon Day was sixth.
The Junior Jays also scored 38 points in the 100 backstroke and 33 points in the 100 breaststroke, leaving them with 120 points in just three events, more than all but three other teams scored in the entire meet.
"That's one of our major strengths throughout the years," Medara said. "We can't always get the gold medal, but when we can put a couple guys on the podium or get a couple guys to place high in their consolation heat, then we get the points. Part of that is we push each other, work really hard, and the atmosphere here really helps us."
Prep's seniors again led the way. Aside from Raynor's two championships, Medara led off both of Prep's title-winning relays, added a runner-up finish in the 50 freestyle, and finished fourth in the 100 freestyle. Landon added a fifth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke to his runner-up medal in the 200 IM, and Connor Magee won the consolation heats in both the 50 and 100 freestyle.
But the Junior Jays' underclassmen proved Saturday that Prep's dominance may not be threatened any time soon. Tate added a third-place finish in the 100 butterfly. His twin brother, Sean, finished third in the 100 freestyle and fourth in the 50 freestyle and swam on Prep's winning 200 freestyle relay. Day and junior Alexander Penrice finished third and fourth in the 100 breaststroke.
"Our younger kids really rose to the occasion," Beck said. "That's a great sign for the future for us. They really didn't get flapped. They all just fed into their team energy, and it went great."
Prep graduated the core of last season's title team that scored a state meet-record 411 points, but Ryan Tate said expectations weren't lowered at the start of the season. Even first-year swimmers are aware of the pressure for excellence in the pool at Prep.
"Definitely," Tate said. "Everyone feels it."
And everyone responded, making the 2012 title the sixth straight for the Junior Jays.
"This team was probably more cohesive from the senior class all the way down," Beck said. "The senior class just took the underclassmen and guided them the whole season. They held them to a high standard in practice, and they just developed a close bond. That let them be effective leaders at the meets at the end of the year."
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