Weber wins twice at Hickman qualifier

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

COLUMBIA -- The idea behind the Hickman Last Chance Qualifier, held Saturday at Columbia, was for the four participating boys' swimming teams to get more entries into the MSHSAA Championships.

To that end, Marshall was not successful, nor was there any realistic expectation that it would be. For as much progress as the Owls have made during their inaugural campaign, and it's been substantial, only one of them had been able to swim fast enough to meet qualifying times.

That exception, of course, is freshman Mason Weber, the only member of the Marshall team to have ever advanced to the elite level of the USA Swimming Central Zone Championships during summer competition.

Weber was already eligible to enter five events at state, a status which didn't change in the regular season finale -- although he won the 200-yard individual medley (2:06.64) and 500-yard freestyle (5:01.11), both comfortably. The gap between Weber and second place was two seconds in the former event and over 14 seconds in the latter, but in neither did he eclipse his best mark of the season.

The Owls needed to cut eight seconds off their time in the 200 medley relay to make the cut, but couldn't -- the combo of Weber, senior Jordan Bishop and sophomores Chris Koehn and Michael White placing third at 1:57.11.

The 200 free relay, with sophomore Grant Pfizenmaier replacing Bishop in the quartet, was also third at 1:47.59 -- having needed to improve by seven seconds to go further.

The gaps between personal bests and qualifying standards were similarly substantial in individual events, with only White lowering his time by placing 12th in the 50-yard free (27.03 seconds) -- following Bishop (26.26) in ninth.

Koehn was sixth in the 100 breast (1:13.07) and Pfizenmaier seventh in the 100 butterfly (1:20.33).

Marshall came in third in the team standings with 149 points, behind Hickman (535 points) and Rock Bridge (320) and ahead of Hannibal (134).

Weber advances to the state meet, Friday and Saturday at St. Peters. Owls head coach Amber Tottingham said he will enter the 100 breaststroke and 500 free, participants limited to two individual events. If compared to last year's meet, Weber's best time in the breast (1:02.48) would have placed him 14th overall and his top mark in the free (4:59.45) would have him 15th.

How he will do when pushed by more formidable competition is certainly speculative, although Weber -- who won a team-high 17 solo races this season -- has generally performed best against the best.

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