Lincoln Southwest wins third straight girls swimming title

Lincoln Southwest's Berkeley Livingston is the top ranked swimmer in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, but she won't compete in either at this week's state championship.

Though she’s the state’s top-ranked swimmer in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, Berkeley Livingston won’t be competing in either event at this week’s state championship.

Instead, the Lincoln Southwest senior is entered in the same events she swam at the 2018 state meet — 200 individual medley relay and 500 freestyle. Livingston is the No. 4 seed in both for the prelims set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Devaney Center.

Livingston has been focused on those two events since last year’s meet.

The Nebraska recruit won the 500 free in 4:55.37 but fell short of her goal of breaking the state record by just over two seconds.

Then there was the 200 IM.

She was disqualified on her turn transitioning from the backstroke to the breaststroke when an official ruled Livingston’s shoulders were more up than down after she’d kicked off the wall. It’s a call that never happened before and hasn’t happened since, even at last December’s USATF Junior Nationals.

“I just want to be able to prove myself again in that event,” Livingston said. “I still think about it at almost every practice, every time I’ve done that crossover at every dual, every meet, even at Junior Nationals.

“So yeah, I still use that DQ as motivation.”

That’s the competitive spirit Silver Hawk coach Leigh Ann Fetter-Witt has seen in so many of the top Southwest sprinters who have helped lead the team to four of the past five state finals.

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“She’s a tough girl and really tough mentally,” Fetter-Witt said. “Berkeley has never been too shy or too quiet. She doesn’t like to lose, and she’s a fierce competitor.

“All those girls who have been here before, they were fierce competitors. They didn’t back down for anything, they went for it every time they went to race.”

Livingston has competed in several events this season and is in The World-Herald’s all-time Top 10 in four catagories — the 200 free (No. 9), 200 IM (No. 7), 100 fly (No. 8) and 500 free (No. 3).

Both coach and swimmer aren’t surprised that Livingston is seeded fourth in both races. But sitting one spot outside of the top three, Livingston said, means that there’s room to get better.

“Being in fourth has given me a lot of motivation to move up and earn more points for the team,” Livingston said. “To be able to win one more state championship actually would mean a lot.

“Swimming is the only sport at Southwest that has won this many titles in a row. It’s a way to bring something to our school.”

Fetter-Witt knows Livingston will give her best effort no matter what she’s seeded or what lane she’s in. She has also been the leadoff swimmer for two freestyle relay teams that have the fastest times in the state this season.

“She hasn’t swum those events in a while and definitely hasn’t swum them rested,” Fetter-Witt said. “She has cuts in all of her events, but all along she has kind of known what she wanted to do at state.”

Mixing it up during the season helps keep those favorite events fresh when it’s time for the big meets at the end.

“Some kids don’t want to do same events at state that they did at conference,” Fetter-Witt said. “This is her third year with us, and Berkeley always swims different events at conference than she does at state.

“We’re confident she’ll be ready to do her best.”