TOPEKA — The cheers erupted on one side of the Capitol Federal Natatorium. Lawrence had just won the Class 6A girls swimming and diving title, and the venue was boisterous and loud.
In the opposite corner was Manhattan coach Alex Brown, whose team had just scored a total of 28 points for an 18th-place finish — but he wasn’t upset.
Manhattan didn’t come particularly close to competing for the 6A crown, but Brown was content.
All the relay teams the Indians brought to the meet made the finals, the first time that’s happened in his three-year career as the head man at MHS.
Besides, several Indians swam solid times. Senior Blaise Hayden swam a career-best 2:02.40 in the 200-yard freestyle, good for 12th place.
“That,” Brown said, “was a good way for her to end her career.”
Manhattan’s state competitors on Saturday included Hayden, senior Lauren Cassou, juniors Holly Randall and Elly Hensley, sophomore Talia Francois and freshman Faith Cummings.
Manhattan’s best finish came from Hayden, who took 12th in both the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles.
In fact, Hayden had to wait through a roughly 30-minute weather delay before she competed in the 500-yard freestyle.
Not to worry, though.
“It kind of helped me, because it gave me a little bit more rest,” Hayden said. “Sometimes when you know there’s going to be bad weather, it messes with your mentality, because you’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I won’t have to swim it at all,’ and stuff like that.”
The Indians’ 400-yard freestyle relay team of Cassou, Francois, Hayden and Randall took 14th in 3:54.46.
The 200-yard relay team of Randall, Cummings, Francois and Hensley took 15th, completing the relay in 1:58.93.
“We didn’t swim as fast as we would have liked on a couple of the relays,” Brown said. “We didn’t have bad times. They were some of our best times of the season, but we can’t be upset when we’re in the finals, and all the delays, throwing off our warm-ups, things like that. We were just happy to be back and swim twice (at state).”
Individually, the Indians had a hard time cracking the top finishers.
In the 50-yard freestyle, Cassou placed 20th (25.99) and Randall took 23rd (26.53), both in the preliminary stage on Friday.
Cummings took 23rd in the 200-yard IM, completing it in 2:26.52, and she placed 19th in the 100-yard breaststroke, finishing in 1:12.66. Both of those came in Friday’s preliminaries.
Several other Manhattan finishers weren’t able to make it to Saturday’s finals in a few events.
That included Francois, who took 23rd in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 1:07.42, and Cassou, who placed 25th in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 58.55.
Randall also finished in the preliminaries in the 100-yard backstroke, taking 21st in 1:05.00.
Still, Brown took consolation in the fact that no one on his team recorded one of their worst times.
The opposite happened.
“We saw a lot of good swims at this meet,” Brown said, “and even (with) the girls who didn’t have their best race of the season, it was their second best, with league being the only better one. That’s not anything to be upset about — when your best two races of the season are the last two meets. That’s what we look for.”
That aligned with Brown’s approach to the way his team finished. The Indians never were called to the finishers’ podium after an event on Saturday, but their coach paid no mind.
“We just focused on, ‘What can we do?’” Brown said. “We can’t control how everyone else swims, so we swim our best, and the times will happen and the places will fall in from there. That’s all that I preach — ‘Give it your all, and if you’ve tried your best, there’s nothing else you need to worry about. You can’t do any better than that.’”
Brown, Hayden and Cassou all agreed that in aggregate, the season was success. The Indians won six meets, including all four of their home meets, as well as the Centennial League meet and a road meet at Great Bend.
“That’s more than we’ve had in a while,” Brown said. “(They should) enjoy the successes we’ve had. We had a lot of great swims this year. We qualified someone for the state meet in every single swimming event. Didn’t all make finals, but just to make it here is a big deal.”
Cassou and Hayden both agreed they’ll remember the season by one meet in particular: the Centennial League meet, when the Indians upset Washburn Rural and took first.
“That was kind of a surprise for us, but it was so great,” Hayden said. “I’m so glad we got to do that, in our senior year especially.”