What a Rush; Papio swimmer shows grit

Papillion LaVista's Luke Barr entered the day No. 2 in the all-time Top 10 for the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke and No. 3 in the 50 freestyle. The sophomore solidified his standing in all three with victories in the IM and breaststroke and led off Papio’s 200 freestyle relay with a 50 free of 20.17 that moved him from No. 3 to No. 2.

LINCOLN — Rush Clark and Luke Barr found ways to top what they did during Friday’s prelims with more spectacular swims in Saturday’s championships.

By lowering his state record in the 100-yard butterfly and winning the 100 freestyle, Clark led Omaha Creighton Prep to its 13th consecutive team title and the 21st in school history at the Devaney Center.

Prep finished with 310.5 points and victories in four events. Omaha Westside outscored Millard West 232.5-204 for second place.

“We had a really good weekend,” Westside coach Doug Krecklow said. “They got us in a position to score points, which is what you have to do on Friday. That’s why we felt so good when we came in today because we had a great meet yesterday and the kids felt good about what they did.”

Clark won the fly in 47.54 seconds, then came back with less than 15 minutes of rest — which included a TV interview and medal presentation — to win the 100 free in 45.39, the sixth-fastest time in state history.

“Rush’s fly, when it’s already that fast, to go another .10 faster is pretty good,” Prep coach Tom Beck said. “His 100 free was way better today when he had a little bit of rest. His last 25 was just a lot better. He held his stroke rate all the way into the wall.”

After receiving his medal from Beck, Clark headed to Prep’s area on the deck to put his gold medal in his bag before to the diving well, putting on his goggles and swim cap to get in the diving well for a quick cool down. He made it to his lane before the award ceremony for the girls 100 free began.

When the introductions for the 100 free began, it had been 14 minutes, 32 seconds since Clark exited the pool after his 100 fly victory.

And he was pretty fast outside of the pool, too.

“I felt like I got enough rest for the 100 free,” Clark said of his 14:52 break between races. “At that point I just wanted to win, I just wanted to see first by my name.”

In addition to Clark’s two victories, senior Ross Pantano won his first individual title in the 100 backstroke and the Junior Jays won the 400 freestyle relay by nearly four seconds.

“We swam really well in the medley relay; Papillion was just faster,” Beck said. “We held most of our spots, and some guys swam a lot faster today. Our last relay was probably one of the highlights.

“They just have a lot of pride in their relays. I don’t think it sat really well with them that we didn’t win either of the first two.”

Barr entered the day No. 2 in the all-time Top 10 for the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke and No. 3 in the 50 freestyle.

The Papillion-La Vista/Papillion- La Vista South sophomore solidified his standing in all three with victories in the IM and breaststroke and led off Papio’s 200 freestyle relay with a 50 free of 20.17 that moved him from No. 3 to No. 2.

Barr began his day by dropping 2.25 seconds from his 200 IM to win the championship in 1:47.91 — second only to the state record of 1:45.50 by Prep’s Jacob Molacek in 2014.

After the race, Barr missed his television interview as he was vomiting into one of the on-deck trash cans. But he made it to the medal stand to receive his gold from coach Nick Baker.

“I was over at the medal stand and his mother was at the railing yelling to me that he was puking,” Baker said. “I looked back and could see that he was struggling, but he eventually made it over.

“After I put the medal around his neck, I asked him how he was feeling. He said, ‘I’m feeling better now.’ He wasn’t afraid to empty his tank and his stomach to do the best that he could.”

Barr rested and got something to drink before it was time to lead off the 200 free relay. Baker said Barr got one of the best starts he’d ever seen, but he was flagged by officials for a false start and Papio initially was disqualified.

Baker submitted a written protest and said the DQ was overturned because some of the documentation wasn’t correctly filed.

Prep’s quartet that finished second had already been interviewed on TV. Several of the other teams were on the medal stand before the public address announcer told the teams to return to their areas and that the medals would be awarded later.

After the ruling was overturned, Barr returned to the blocks to win the breaststroke in 55.17, 0.24 faster than he swam the prelims.

“He was disappointed with his time but knew that he needed to use his safe start,” Baker said. “He was maybe the last one off the blocks.” 

State record holder Jonathan Novinski of Grand Island successfully defended his title in the 500 freestyle, winning in 4:35.20. It was a strong bounce back for the sophomore after he was upset in the 200 freestyle by Lincoln Southwest freshman Tommy Palmer.

Palmer dropped 1.20 seconds from his prelim time to win in 1:40.59, 0.26 from the No. 10 spot on the all-time list. Novinski was second in 1:41.27.

Omaha Burke senior Kody Hollingsworth won the 50 freestyle in 21.26 and Prep’s Pantano won the 100 back in 49.81. Pantano also anchored Prep’s 400 free relay with a 45.93 split and finished second to Barr in the 200 IM.

“His IM was also really good,” Beck said. “That relay was a nice way for Ross to put a cap on his career.”

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