By Will Anderson
Last weekend marked the return of the Westlake girls 400-yard freestyle relay to the state tournament, and the Chaps showed off some of the athleticism that made them a mainstay in the event in previous seasons.
Anchored by junior Mackenzie Franklin, the Chaparrals came from behind to finish fourth in the race just one year after failing to reach this stage.
Westlake was seeded seventh, but Alyssa Woltemath, Emma Gilluly and Olivia Muehlberger each swam a faster leg than in preliminaries to help the team finish in 3 minutes, 32.03 seconds.
“They did a much better job today,” Westlake coach Isaac Grombacher said. “We had to improve from yesterday, that was the goal, and they did that really well.”
From 2007 to 2010, the Westlake girls won the 400 relay at state four consecutive times, including with Franklin as a freshman in 2010.
And with only Muehlberger graduating, Franklin expects the relay to be even stronger next year after another season of practicing together.
“It’s definitely a good thing to be back in this relay and I think next year we’re going to do really well,” she said. “We have some upcoming freshmen and sophomores who are going to make us even faster, too.”
That’s a sentiment shared by Woltemath, a sophomore.
“We’ve got our eyes on winning some state titles and it’s great to be back,” Woltemath said. “I love the girls I’m with right now so I’m really excited.”
After Mattias Glenesk failed to qualify for the finals of the boys 500 freestyle, Franklin was the only Chaparral left competing for an individual victory on Saturday.
Her eighth-place finish in the 100 freestyle was not what she had in mind representing Westlake, but the junior was confident the experience will help her next season.
“It wasn’t how I wanted it to be but it was good experience to swim in it at state,” she said. “Next year I’ll definitely come back stronger and I feel like I’ll have less nerves.”
Franklin also won the consolation final of the 50 freestyle with a time of 23.95 seconds, which would have placed her sixth in the finals had she qualified.
“For Mackenzie getting to swim her first individual race at state, now she knows what it’s like,” Grombacher said. “She’s learning to deal with the pressure of big meets.”
The other Chaparral racing in an individual event at state, Glenesk still earned third in a tightly contested consolation final for the 500 freestyle. Glenesk swam the first 400 yards in fourth place but moved ahead before the penultimate turn and held on to finish in 4:35.84.
“He had a little bit higher expectations coming off his great job at the regional meet,” Grombacher said about Glenesk. “But you know it’s a little tricky with distance swimmers depending on how much rest they get and it looked like he was more ready for the region meet.”
Westlake had only five athletes in the pool at state but Grombacher hopes that sliver of experience sows future success for the upcoming generation of Westlake swimmers.
“We’re still very young. Just to get them the experience, all of them except for Mackenize who’s swam a relay event before, that will help them going forward,” Grombacher said. “Not just in high school but all of their big meets moving forward.
And with the team’s most successful swimmer at the state level only a junior, there will be plenty of chances for big meets in the Chaparrals’ future.