Top-seeded Waco Midway’s 200 medley relay team raced out to an early lead Saturday night in the District 12-5A Swimming Championships at Belton High School.
Waiting to swim the third leg for Harker Heights was senior Morgan Bean.
“Before the race, when Midway’s team was announced, their swimmers and fans were all jumping up and down,” Bean said. “So we wanted to put them in their place.”
Meaning second place.
Bean and teammates Douglas Sauer, Matt Sluss and Evan Pearce were thinking gold.
When Bean dove into the pool, Waco
“I saw we were behind, so I was thinking ‘speed, speed, speed,’ just go as fast as possible,” Bean said.
During his 50-yard leg of the relay, Bean blasted past Midway’s Ethan Scott giving Heights the lead. It was clearly a magnificent piece of swimming by Bean. At the side of the pool, Heights head coach Kate Eikrem was ecstatic, jumping up and down.
“I went bonkers because I knew how bad Morgan, and all the boys, wanted to win that race,” Eikrem said.
“Once I touched, I saw we were in the lead,” Bean said. “And I was confident that Evan Pearce would keep that lead.”
Which Pearce did, and the Heights’ quartet had themselves a gold medal.
Two events later, the 200 freestyle, Sluss dove into the pool as the No. 1 seed.
After 50 yards, Sluss was a full second ahead of the pack. By the halfway mark, he was two seconds ahead. Nobody was about to catch Sluss and he knew it.
“Once I had that comfortable lead, I tried to conserve energy,” said Sluss, a senior. “I slowed down a bit because I knew I had two more swimming events after that.”
Still, Sluss took the gold with a time of 1:47.12, more than two seconds ahead of the silver medal winner.
That conserving of energy by Sluss paid off. Later, he took first in the 100 fly.
Bean took second in the 100 fly and first in the 200 individual medley.
Then, late in the meet, Sluss, Bean, Pearce and Sauer stunned the district with a first-place finish in the 200 freestyle — an event they entered seeded sixth.
Overall, it was a heck of a night for Heights, finishing third in the meet and an especially impressive event for team leaders Bean and Sluss.
The duo are best friends and intense competitors, especially with each other.
“We’re best friends but we push each other every day,” Sluss said. “Neither of us ever wants to get beat by the other.”
“We push each other so hard,” Bean said. “But the result of all that pushing is that we both end up going pretty fast.”
“Since Morgan and I compete so hard against each other in practice, once we’re at a meet, the intensity of it doesn’t get to either one of us — because it doesn’t feel that much different from our practices.”
While Sluss was glad to win the district meet 100 fly, he was also happy for Bean taking second.
“I knew we’d finish first and second in that event,” Sluss said. “I just wasn’t sure which of us would be first and which would be second. It felt great for us to finish 1-2 in that event.”
Sluss, Bean and their teammates will travel to Rockwall on Feb. 7 to compete in the regional meet.
“I think we have a shot at making it to state,” Bean said. “I think our best shot might be that 200 medley relay.”
Both Sluss and Bean also credit first-year head coach Eikrem for their success this season.
“She has made our practices tougher,” Bean said. “That’s been helpful.”
“Coach is always pushing us both,” Sluss said. “She’s an awesome coach.”
“Both Morgan and Matt are very special to me,” Eikrem said. “They are best friends and also very competitive with each other — and they make that work. They compete in the same event. You never know which will win the race. But one thing I do know is that once that race is over, they shake hands and move on.
“That two 17-year-olds can conduct themselves like that is very, very impressive.”
Contact Allan Mandell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7566 and read his blog on KDHPressbox.com