Owls 10th at state swim meet
ST. PETERS -- Marshall senior Mason Weber wound up his all-America prep swimming career Saturday with 10 state medals, but none of them gold.
"It was disappointing -- really, really disappointing," admitted Weber after repeating his second-place performance in the final of the 100-yard breaststroke (56.48 seconds), his last event -- one in which he entered the MSHSAA Championships at St. Peters as the No. 1 seed.
Weber set the school record Friday with the fastest time in the preliminaries (56.05), .87 seconds faster than Ft. Zumwalt West senior Andrew Simek. While Simek had an hour to rest before the finals Saturday after winning the 100-yard butterfly, Weber had raced just a few minutes earlier in the 200 free relay.
However, it wasn't fatigue, but technique, which undid Weber in the finals.
"I messed up a couple of my walls," Weber explained. "Either not far enough away or too far away. I didn't judge them right."
This was the case on both the bulkhead turns, as well as the final touch -- in which Weber went into his stretch slightly ahead of Simek, but was still short of the timing pad to lose by .07 seconds.
It was reminiscent of the end of the 400-meter freestyle relay at the Beijing Olympic Games, where American Jason Lezak nipped Alain Bernard of France in the same manner by .08 seconds.
It was the second silver medal of the meet for Weber, who gave heavily-favored Springfield-Kickapoo senior Matt Maurer a run in the 200 individual medley. Not pushed in his prelim heat, Weber (1:52.52) had a time 1.43 seconds slower than Maurer.
After falling behind early in the finals, Weber pulled to within a half-second of Maurer on the breaststroke, but the final freestyle leg would see the top seed pull away.
"Both of us recognized which strokes we were stronger in," noted Weber, who had beaten Maurer in the 200 free two weeks earlier at Webb City -- but whose top times of the season in all distances of the stroke were slightly slower. "It was going to come down to the free, and who was faster."
Weber set an MHS record at 1:51.97, but Maurer finished 1.53 seconds ahead.
If Weber looks back at this meet with some regret, it won't be for the performance of he and his Owl teammates -- junior Khris Ward, sophomore Brock Musick and freshman Tyler Nichols -- in the relays.
Weber's 25.60 split time in the breaststroke leg of the 200 medley preliminary was more than a second-and-a-half faster than any other one, helping set a new school record (1:40.14) by 1.61 seconds and catapulting Marshall into the finals.
The Owls weren't quite as fast the second day (1:40.32), but held on to sixth place.
In the free relay, after placing seventh in the prelim (1:30.50), Marshall was sixth in the final (1:30.05) -- having lowered the MHS standard 1.61 seconds in the process, a result Weber called "awesome."
"We're probably the smallest school" in the field, Weber said -- only slightly off the mark -- "and to be sixth in both is amazing."
The Owls didn't have any other individual finalists, but finished with 86 points for 10th place -- the only school outside the state's four largest metro areas in the top 20.
Nichols came close to making the cut in the 200 IM (2:03.28) -- in 17th place, 1.32 seconds from advancing. He set a personal record while coming in 21st in the 100 breast (1:04.10).
Musick was 24th in the 50 free (22.50) and 42nd in the 100 backstroke (1:00.38) while Ward was 27th in the 100 butterfly (56.77) and 40th in the breast (1:06.22), with a new personal record.
With three state qualifiers returning, along with improving junior Eden Elfrink, the Owls will have a good chance of returning to state in the relays.
"Hopefully, it will carry on," Weber said. "We saw how close it came to being eliminated this summer."
For Weber, though, despite his myriad accomplishments -- including two undefeated regular seasons in individual events, 44 straight wins -- his memories of the state meet will be bittersweet: "Just being a little short every year."