Inspired by the Alesso song “Heroes,” the Sacred Heart Academy swimming and diving team adopted a superhero theme for Saturday’s State Swimming and Diving Championships, with coach Jim Luebbe even sporting a red cape, a la Superman.
The Valkyries were, indeed, supernatural in the pool.
Sacred Heart won eight of 12 events and set three state records along the way in capturing its third consecutive state championship at the University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium.
The Valkyries finished with 486 points – just shy of last year’s mark of 502 – but easily outdistanced runner-up Notre Dame (271 points).
“One of the hardest things to do is to follow up a performance like 2014 with what we did today,” Luebbe said. “I’m very proud of these girls. They were firing on all cylinders today.”
It was a fast day in the pool, as seven state records were set. North Oldham junior Grace Oglesby and Notre Dame freshman Sophie Skinner both set two state marks in winning their events. Oglesby was named the Outstanding Meet Competitor.
“It’s amazing what all of these athletes did,” Luebbe said. “Friday (during preliminaries) it seemed like it was a little flat in here in terms of performance. But the entire state of Kentucky amped it way up today to another level.”
Sacred Heart led the way by winning all three relays, including two in record time. Tonner DeBeer, Kennedy Lohman, Asia Seidt and Brooke Bauer got the Valkyries off to a hot start by winning the 200-yard medley relay with a record time of 1 minute, 40.74 seconds.
Bauer and Lohman joined Leah Stevens and Molly O’Hara in winning the 200 freestyle relay with a record time of 1:34.46. Bauer, DeBeer, Stevens and Seidt capped the meet by winning the 400 free relay in 3:24.36.
Brooke Forde (200 individual medley), Erin Duffey (diving), Stevens (500 free), Seidt (100 backstroke) and Lohman (100 breaststroke) were the individual winners for the Valkyries. Lohman won with a record time of 1:01.23, just beating her own mark of 1:01.29 set last year.
Lohman beat Paul Dunbar junior Madison Winstead by .42 second. Lohman said the two are best friends.
“Madison really gave me a good race,” Lohman said. “She pushed me on every wall. … That eventually gave me the record, I guess.”
Oglesby set her records while winning the 50 free (22.92 seconds) and 100 butterfly (51.75). Her time in the butterfly was just off the national high school record of 51.70 set by Beata Nelson of Wisconsin last November.
“I’m not disappointed or anything,” Oglesby said. “I had that time in the back of my mind, but I still have another year to get it.”
Skinner might have pulled the upset of the day by beating Sacred Heart’s Stevens in the 200 free with a record time of 1:47.61. Stevens, who has signed with Stanford, was second in 1:48.34.
“I dove in the water and just thought, ‘Give it all you’ve got,’” Skinner said. “I was racing a very fast swimmer in Leah. She’s amazing. I just worked with her to finish the race, and it turns out I touched first.”
Skinner won the 100 free in a record time of 49.79 seconds.
But the day belonged to Sacred Heart, which will be a heavy favorite to take a fourth straight title next season. Of the eight swimmers who played a part in first-place finishes Saturday, only Stevens and Duffey are seniors.
But for Lohman and her teammates, a third straight state title was all that mattered Saturday.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s real right now,” she said. “We’ve all been swimming together since we were little. The fact that all of us ended up in the same program is just amazing. They’re like my sisters now.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.