LINCOLN — A rousing pre-meet speech from a former swimmer-turned-assistant Saturday reignited the passion that had gone AWOL from Omaha Creighton Prep's state routine.
The Junior Jays won three individual events and all three relays on the way to their 10th consecutive team championship in the 79th boys state swimming meet at the Devaney Center.
They scored 430 points, well ahead of runner-up Papillion-La Vista/Papillion-La Vista South, which edged Millard South 189-182.5 for second place.
Prep coach Tom Beck had said after Friday's prelims that his team was missing the usual pep from its step most of the day.
So Matt Franco, a 2010 Prep grad and one of Beck's assistants, revised a speech he had used to motivate teammates before a 2009meet in Kentucky, which helped inspire an upset of one of the nation's top teams.
That "Braveheart"-type address, delivered in a Devaney Center corridor, proved to be the tonic the team needed.
Prep became the first school to win 10 consecutive state swimming championships. The previous state record was nine in a row by Omaha Westside from 1978 to 1986.
The Junior Jays have won 18 total state titles, including 17 of the past 21.
"It was definitely a much better day," Beck said. "We had really good improvements from the prelims to today with a lot of swimmers. We started out with a very spirited first relay."
Prep won the 200-yardmedley relay in 1:33.59, the eighth-best time in state history. The Junior Jays later won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:25.56, the ninth-best time in state history, and finished by winning the 400 freestyle relay.
Junior Jays senior Brandon Abboud won two events — the 200 and 500 freestyle — and sophomore Colin LaFave posted the fastest time of the season in winning the 50 freestyle in 21.36. Omaha Brownell-Talbot senior Lance Culjat and Grand Island junior Matthew Novinski also won two individual events apiece. Despite battling a back and shoulder injury, Culjat won the 200 individual medley in 1:52.44 before winning his specialty — the 100 breaststroke — in 56.64.
Novinski fell short of reaching his goal times in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke but still posted big wins. After winning the 100 fly in 50.75, he won the backstroke in 50.14.
Norfolk's Cameron Carney won his first state championship with a season-best time in the 100 freestyle. After opening with a 22.22 in his first 50 yards, Carney roared back in 24.44 to win in 46.66.
Papio clinched a second-place finish, its best since winning the 2003 championship, by finishing second to Prep in the final event, the 400 freestyle relay.
"The guys knew we needed to have a big performance in the 400 free relay," Papio coach Nick Baker said, "and they did what they needed to do."
Prep's Abboud, a Xavier recruit, had qualified second in both the 200 and 500 free, though he was the defending state champion in the 500.
"He may be was trying too hard on Friday because he knew his strokes weren't real smooth or efficient," Beck said. "It came to him a lot easier today because he was able to relax a little more."
Abboud opened his day by winning the 200 in 1:41.31, 2.01 seconds faster than runner-up Carney of Norfolk. Then Abboud successfully defended his 500 title by touching first in 4:39.77. He also anchored the Junior Jays' 200 freestyle relay team to victory.
The normally even-keeled Beck, toweling off his face from the post-meet celebration in the pool, started to get emotional when asked what winning the 10th title meant to him and the school.
"All of those guys have built and generated a tremendous amount of pride over the years," he said. "Guys who will step aside in individual events to give someone younger a chance to compete, get a taste of what it's like, so they can come back and be big contributors on future teams.
"It's just been a lot of good teams with great kids."