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Friday, Feb. 08, 2013

Willis again wins league title in 100 breast stroke

The Kansas City Star

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Olathe Northwest senior Zach Willis completed a career sweep in the 100-yard breast stroke last Saturday at the Sunflower League Boys Swimming and Diving Championships, which took place at the Lawrence Free State Aquatic Center.

“It feels great,” said Willis, who won in 1 minute, 0.21 seconds. “This is my fourth time winning this, which feels really good.”

Of course, the bigger goal — a state title in the event — has proven elusive.

Willis finished second behind Wichita East sophomore Nate Pirner at state as a junior. He was fourth as a sophomore and fifth as a freshman in the event.

“That’s the main goal, so we’ll see what happens in two weeks from now,” Willis said. “It’s good to swim well today. I haven’t fully tapered off, but once I do for state I am confidence I can do more damage.”

One of Willis’ chief rivals is Olathe East senior Chuck Balkenbusch, who finished second at league.

“Me and Chuck Balkenbusch, who is one of my good friends, were going at it again,” Willis said. “It’s a good, friendly rivalry. We have a good time with it.”

It’s also coming to an end.

The Kansas 6A state meet, which begins Thursday with the diving preliminaries at Topeka’s Capitol Federal Natatorium, will be Balkenbusch’s swansong in competitive swimming. He won’t swim in college.

“It’s too much of a time commitment,” Balkenbusch said. “Two more weeks, and this is it for me. It’s bittersweet. I’ve liked it, but, if I’m honest, I’m ready for the 12 years I’ve put in to be over. I’m ready to have some days to relax and soak up my senior year.”

Balkenbusch helped the Hawks to yet another runner-up finish behind 10-time reigning champion Shawnee Mission East, who are the 10-time reigning Sunflower League champions.

He helped Olathe East’s 200 medley relay claim a league crown. He teamed with Connor Davey, Tanner Emerson and Tyler Gartenberg for a title in the meet’s first final.

ONW’s Read snags league diving crown

Olathe Northwest sophomore Josh Read moved from Portsmouth, England, three years when his father, who works from Garmin, was transferred to Kansas City.

Read joined the Ravens swimming and diving squad after developing a friendship with four-time state diving champion Clark Thomas, a 2012 Olathe Northwest graduate.

“If it hadn’t been for Clark, I probably never would have dived,” Read said.

During the first league meet since Thomas, who went undefeated in his high school career, moved on to Missouri, Read would have made his pal proud, winning the title with 387.75 points.

“I felt some pressure, but really I just wanted to go out there and have fun,” Read said. “I didn’t really think about it until the last few days. Fortunately, I was in the lead for pretty much the whole meet.”

A week earlier, Read finished third at the SM East Invitational, but he rebounded in fine fashion.

“It feels good,” Read said. “It would have been a bit different if Zach (Neuman) – he’s from Olathe East – had shown up, but you’ve got to take what you’re given and I did what I had to do today to win.”

Memorial scholarship established in Mary Grove’s honor

In honor of Olathe Northwest boys basketball coach Mike Grove’s late daughter, the Mary Grove Leadership Scholarship has been established at the Kansas School for the Deaf.

Mary died Jan. 28 at the age of 18. She was a senior at the KSD.

A scholarship will be created in her honor for a student wishing to pursue secondary education or attend academic conferences/competitions while in school.

To contribute, checks – made out to the KSD Endowment with “Mary Grove’s scholarship fund” in the memo line – should be sent to Jeanette Magathan at KSD, 450 E. Park St., Olathe, KS 66061.

South hoops set for Pink Night

Olathe South will celebrate its Pink Night on Friday during a doubleheader against Olathe Northwest.

Falcons fans are encouraged to wear pink and the first 200 fans in attendance will receive Pink Night T-shirts sponsored by Hannah Orthodontics.

Pink shirts will be on sale at Olathe South beginning Monday with proceeds benefitting the Susan G, Komen Foundation.

Sunflower League seeks director of officials

The Sunflower League is seeking a Director of Officials for the 2013-14 school year to schedule and organize all officials.

The job requires a highly organized individual to schedule and evaluate officials for a 12-member league.

Interested candidates should senior a cover letter, resume, three letters of reference and contact information for five professional references to Dr. Matt Brungardt, 1901 Louisiana St., Lawrence, KS 66046 by March 1. Email inquiries can be sent to mbrungar@usd497.org.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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