STATE SWIMMING AND DIVING MEET Thursday-Saturday • Devaney Center, Lincoln
A simple philosophy has put the Papillion-La Vista/Papillion-La Vista South boys in position to have their best finish at a state swimming and diving championship meet since winning the school's lone state title in 2003.
"They're just kids who work hard and follow instructions," Papio coach Nick Baker said. "They're motivated and they really want to get better. Everybody knows what they need to do and they just do it."
That first title was driven by a core group of five swimmers. Papio will take a similar approach to the 2016 meet that begins Thursday at the Devaney Center in Lincoln.
While Omaha Creighton Prep is favored to win its 10th consecutive boys title, Papio is considered to be the Junior Jays' closest rival. That belief is buoyed by Papio's second-place finish at the Metro Conference championship meet.
Noah Barr and Riley Olson both won events at the Metro meet and are among the top seeds in their state meet events. Barr won the 200-yard individual medley in 1:57.75 and tied for first with Prep's Brian Magee in the 100 breaststroke at 59.14 after swimming 58.55 in the prelim.
Olson won the 200 freestyle in 1:44.95 and was second in the 500 in 4:54.31. Fellow Papio swimmer Grayson Stanton was third in the 500 in a season-best 4:54.49.
Barr is the No. 1 seed at state in the breaststroke and No. 2 in the 200 IM.
"That 58.5 is his lifetime best," Baker said. "He's still growing and developing. He works hard, always wants to get better and sets high goals for himself. He hasn't quite met his goal for this season yet; hopefully he'll be able to do that next week."
Billy Salber also is one of the state's top swimmers in the 100 butterfly. He finished second at the Metro meet in 52.68 and will enter the state meet ranked No. 3 in that event, and also is ninth in the 50 freestyle.
Baker said those swimmers and others have done more than just pick up the pace when it comes time to compete.
"The interesting thing about this group is that some of the seniors we lost from last year, the guys we have now who stepped in not only filled in but surpassed where some of those seniors were," Baker said. "They worked hard in the offseason and during the season.
"I think it was just a matter of time with them."
One of the biggest areas where Papio is sitting strong is the relays. It is ranked No. 2 behind Prep in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
While its season bests are within striking distance of the Junior Jays - 1.47 seconds in the 200 and three seconds in the 400 — the gaps between Papio and its closest competitors are even bigger.
"We just need to put together a couple of relays where everyone has a season best," Baker said. "There have been times where maybe one or two guys hasn't gone their best, but the others have."
While it would be nice to win either or both of those races, Baker said the most important thing to this group is to get the school records in those relays.
"It might be a little more important to our guys to do that," Baker said. "It would mean a lot to them to close in on those records because of how good those guys were."
1. Omaha Creighton Prep
2. Papillion-La Vista/Papio South
3. Millard South
4. Lincoln Northeast
5. Lincoln Southwest
7. Omaha Burke
8. Elkhorn/Elkhorn South
9. Grand Island
10. Millard North
1. Lincoln Southwest
2. Omaha Marian
3. Millard North
4. Omaha Westside
5. Lincoln Pius X
6. Millard West
7. Papillion-La Vista/Papio South
8. Lincoln Southeast
9. Ralston/Omaha Gross
10. Lincoln East
8 a.m.: Girls diving warmups
9:30 a.m.: Girls diving competition
12:30 p.m.: Boys diving warmups
2 p.m.: Boys diving competition
7:30 a.m.: Girls swimming warmups
9 a.m.: Girls swimming competition
12:30 p.m.: Boys swimming warmups
2 p.m.: Boys swimming competition
9 a.m.: Swimming warmups
11 a.m.: Swimming championship finals