Expect swimmers to make a splash in record book

Grand Island's Jonathan Novinski set a state record in the 500-yard freestyle during the regular season.

LINCOLN — Records usually don’t get broken until state meet weekend arrives.

The fact there have been two this season builds the anticipation of what could happen this weekend when the state’s best swimmers gather at the Devaney Center.

Jonathan Novinski and Rush Clark have taken the spotlight during the regular season with their state records in the 500-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, respectively. Both said they plan to go faster in Friday prelims and/or Saturday’s finals.

They won’t be the only two chasing records. There also has been a higher number of swims that made The World-Herald’s all-time Top 10.

There have been 18 all-time marks this season, including the Novinski and Clark records. Eleven of those came in the boys lists, seven in the girls.

In 2018, the number after the state meet was 28. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that number was topped by the end of Friday’s prelims.

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Southwest streak ends at 51

A remarkable streak by the Lincoln Southwest girls ended at the Feb. 9 Heartland Athletic Conference championships in Fremont.

The Silver Hawks hadn’t lost a race at the HAC meet since 2014. They entered with a streak of 49 consecutive victories.

Southwest’s 200-yard medley relay team got the streak to 50, and senior Berkeley Livingston followed by winning the 200 freestyle in 1:51.93, the ninth fastest in state history.

That win proved to be the last in the streak as Lincoln Pius X junior Katie Stonehocker won the 200 individual medley. The 51 straight mark may last for decades, especially now that the HAC expanded from eight to 11 teams.

Pius was competing in its first conference meet. The Thunderbolts, along with Norfolk and Kearney,  performed well in their first HAC meet after moving from the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference.

The only swimming school without a conference affiliation this season was Gretna. But that’s expected to change when the Dragons are approved for membership in the Metro Conference.

Livingston will 'cherish' time with Silver Hawks

In an interview earlier this week, Livingston shared that she was disappointed she bypassed her freshman season at Southwest to keep competing in club events during 2015-16.

“The high school seasons so far have been the favorite seasons of my life,” Livingston said. “I really regret not swimming high school my freshman year. Being a part of a team is something I’ll always cherish because club isn’t that way at all.”

Foregoing club events didn’t negatively impact Livingston’s ability to get a college scholarship — she chose Nebraska over Arkansas. No female swimmer in this week’s state meet has more all-time Top 10 times than Livingston, who is No. 3 in the 500 free, No. 7 in the 200 IM, No. 8 in the 100 butterfly and No. 9 in the 200 free.

Livingston said she’s better at the 400 individual medley than the 200 IM but the training she has done with the SilverHawks helped her in all events, regardless of the season.

The camaraderie of the team concept, competing in and cheering for teams in relays and individual races, those are a things, Livingston said, that made her decision three years ago the right one.

SilverHawks coach Leigh Ann Fetter-Witt said Livingston has been a welcomed addition to the program for more than just her swimming prowess.

“Berkeley has never been too shy or too quiet,” Fetter-Witt said. “She’s definitely a vocal leader.”

Chances to crack Top 10

Novinski prepares to take two more cracks at breaking into the all-time Top 10 this weekend in the 200 freestyle, and it will be interesting to watch if he follows the same plan he used to win the Heartland Conference title.

“We told him to go out and control the race,” Grand Island coach Brian Jensen said. “He couldn’t let them get the lead and dictate how it was done.” 

Jensen is confident that Novinski has an excellent chance to become the eighth swimmer in the state to go under 1:40 in the 200 free.

“We’re hoping to go 1:39 in that one, and I think he can do that,” Jensen said.

Drought buster for Links

When Lincoln High’s Charles Sieglaff got to the wall first in the final of the Heartland 50 freestyle, he was believed to be the first HAC champion in an individual event for the Links since the mid-1990s.

Sieglaff, who also finished second to Lincoln Northeast junior Caden Feit in the 100 free, won the first conference gold medal for LHS since David Foster in 1995. Foster still is tied for No. 9 on the all-time chart in the 100 butterfly.

In the state meet, Sieglaff is seeded third in the 50 free behind Kody Hollingsworth of Omaha Burke and Feit. In the 100 free, Sieglaff is ranked fifth.

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