LINCOLN — Two of her Lincoln Southwest teammates were the ones rewriting the record book Saturday, but there may not have been a bigger smile at the final day of the state swimming championships than the one on Alana Palmer’s face.
The sophomore played a big part in the Silver Hawks’ romp to the girls team championship with two individual state titles, and she also added two relay championships to end the day with four gold medals.
Palmer turned heads at the Devaney Center pool Friday by shaving nearly five seconds off her season-best time to win the 200 freestyle prelim in 1:50.04, the second-fastest time in state history. In the meet’s second race Saturday, she showed it wasn’t a fluke, winning the 200 final in 1:50.66 to give Southwest its first individual crown of the day.
After finishing state runner-up last season in the 200 freestyle, Palmer said Saturday’s win was especially gratifying, and it came despite her focus on training for different events this season.
“I really didn’t swim the 200 much this season,” Palmer said. “I’ve been training for distances and sprints, and I think that pulled it all together for my 200 to be as low as it was.”
Lincoln Southwest coach Leigh Ann Fetter-Witt said Palmer’s strength may be in sprints, but with the Silver Hawks also boasting state-record holders Dannie Dilsaver and Olivia Calegan in the sprints, Palmer’s versatility gives Southwest an excellent option in the distance races. Still, Friday’s low time in the 200 prelims was a pleasant shock.
“I was ecstatic to see that,” Fetter-Witt said. “She looked up at the board, and her mouth dropped open, and my mouth dropped open. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ We both looked at each other covering our mouths.”
Palmer continued to showcase her versatility throughout Saturday’s finals. After finishing second to Dilsaver in last year’s 500 freestyle final, Palmer dominated the field Saturday, pulling away from Jordan McCullough of Papillion-La Vista/Papillion-La Vista South to win by more than three seconds in 5:03.50, which put Palmer at No. 7 on the state’s all-time charts.
In the very next event, Palmer showed no signs of fatigue by swimming a 23.39 split to anchor Southwest’s 200 freestyle relay team to the title.
“It knew it was relays, and relays are fun,” Palmer said. “I was just excited to race.”
And in the meet’s final race, Palmer was part of a jaw-dropping show from Southwest’s 400 freestyle relay. Palmer swam the second leg and joined Dilsaver, Calegan, and sophomore Shelby Mullendore to set a new state record in 3:25.16. That smashed the old state meet record of 3:28.81 set by Omaha Marian in 2004.
“Last year, we went a 3:28 at conference, and we knew we could go faster than that,” Palmer said. “But just seeing that number and seeing we did that, it was amazing.”
In that race, Calegan set an official state meet record in the 100 by swimming 49.84 on the leadoff leg. It was the second time of the day Calegan broke the 100 freestyle mark after winning the 100 individual title in 50.30. Earlier in the day, Dilsaver set new state records in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
Training with two record-setting teammates has Palmer’s sights set on even bigger goals and some records of her own as she enters the second half of her prep career next season.
“It’s so cool just seeing they’ve qualified for the (U.S. Olympic) Trials and training with them and keeping up with them at practice,” Palmer said. “They’re really good teammates.”
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