• Photo Showcase: Nebraska state swimming, Feb. 25
• Results: Girls state finals
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LINCOLN — A whole lot of ups and very few downs moved Omaha Westside to the top step of the awards stand Saturday at the girls state high school swimming championships.
The Warriors defeated four-time defending champion Millard West 195-178 because they were able to either hold or improve their places from Friday's preliminary round in Saturday's championship and consolation races at the Devaney Center.
The 17-point edge was the eighth-narrowest margin of victory in the 39-year history of the girls meet.
Westside coach Doug Krecklow knows his way around a closely contested meet: He's coached championship teams in five decades.
The 35-year veteran was the head coach for three of the closer team race victories — the Warriors' six-point win in 1979 over Lincoln Southeast, a nine-point victory over Millard North in 1984 and a five-point advantage over Omaha Burke in 1988.
This one was extra special for Krecklow because it was his 20th state championship. He has guided the Warriors to 11 boys titles — the most recent one a 16-point victory over Lincoln East in 2006.
Westside's ninth girls title under Krecklow's guidance was the school's first since 1996. He said this one was special because of the way every swimmer on the roster performed her best in an intense atmosphere.
“It was an absolute team win because everybody contributed in a variety of different ways,” Krecklow said. “It took all 12 of them to make this happen.”
Leading the charge for the Warriors was senior Molly Kroeger, who was named the meet's outstanding female swimmer after becoming the only competitor to win two individual gold medals.
Kroeger got things started for Westside by winning the 200-yard freestyle with a season-best time of 1:53.89.
In the second session, Kroeger improved her Friday seed by rallying in the final 50 yards to beat Millard North's Natalie Renshaw for the 100 freestyle gold medal in 52.45.
“We all did it together,” Kroeger said. “We did for ourselves, but we also did it for Krecklow because if he wanted to retire in the next year or two, we wanted to give him a win to remember.”
There were times this season when a title appeared unlikely for Westside. Krecklow said he kept a positive approach most of the way but admitted he “got after them a couple of times” because he knew they could be much better than they were showing.
“No matter what happens, you have to have some level of fun when you do this,” Krecklow said. “But it's more fun coming in first than second.”
The Warriors finished as runners-up in two relays, losing to Millard North in the 200 medley relay and to Millard West in the 400 freestyle relay. But with the win in the 200 freestyle relay, Westside tightened its hold on the meet after taking the lead for good in the previous event, the 500 freestyle.
Westside took its first lead in the 200 with a win by Kroeger and 10th- and 12th-place points from Warriors seniors Mara Golden and Kalyn Dorheim. The Warriors held the lead until Millard West's strongest event — the 100 butterfly.
Before the fly, Westside got a bit of a boost when Lincoln East freshman Alexis Altmaier upset Millard West's Erin Oeltjen to win the 200 individual medley in 2:09.19. Altmaier finished fourth for the Spartans last October at the Class A cross country meet.
Freshman Tara Goss of Millard West edged Omaha Burke senior Natasha Posthuma by 0.08 seconds in the 100 butterfly with a winning time of 59.45. Millard West scored 33 points in that event, but Westside limited the damage by scoring 19.
But the Wildcats were still up 94-83 until the Warriors outscored them 20-9 in the 100 free to tie the score 103-103. Westside had four swimmers in the 500 free to one for Millard West, and that 24-9 advantage gave the Warriors a lead that the Wildcats couldn't overcome.
“The first half didn't quite go our way, but you have to give Westside credit,” Millard West coach Tracy Stauffer said. “They did what they had to do to win it and we didn't.”
Other champions were Columbus freshman Laura Miksch in the 50 freestyle, Lincoln Southwest sophomore Aimee Fischer in the 500 freestyle (5:07.74), Oeltjen in the 100 backstroke (58.11) and Ralston/Omaha Gross senior Jordane Linhart in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.24).
Miksch moved into a tie for ninth place on The World-Herald's all-time list in the 50 with her time of 23.86. Oeltjen was already on the backstroke chart at No. 7 with her prelim time of 57.77, but runner-up Meredith Wekesser, a junior at Lincoln Southeast, debuted at No. 9 Saturday with her season-best swim of 58.16.
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