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LOUISVILLE – Collin Kessinger saved her best – and her fastest – for last.
Kessinger, a senior swimmer for Shelby County High School, may not have brought home a state title from this past weekend’s KHSAA Swimming & Diving Championships, but she did post some of the fastest times of her life.
Kessinger finished fifth in the 200-yard individual medley and sixth in the 100 breaststroke in Saturday’s state finals after shaving 5 seconds off her best times in those events in Friday’s preliminaries.
“I was happy with it, even though my times today [Saturday] weren’t as fast as they were Friday,” said Kessinger, who earned first-team all-state honors in the process.
Kessinger came into the 2-day competition at the University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium seeded seventh in the 100 breaststroke (with a Region 3-winning time of 1 minute, 6.80 seconds) and eighth in the 200 individual medley (2:07.96).
However in Friday’s preliminaries she swam the third-fastest time in the 100 breast (1:03.59) and the fifth-swiftest 200 IM (2:05.56).
“It was crazy,” Kessinger said. “I was really excited. [Shelby County Coach] J.P. [LaVertu] was really excited. My USS [United States Swimming] coach…he was really excited, and one of my other USS coaches, he was really excited, too. I remember my mom running up and giving him a hug.”
Her time in the 100 breaststroke made her an automatic qualifier for all-American status.
In Saturday morning’s 200 IM finals Kessinger finished in 2:06.03. Cooper junior Sharli Brady won the event in 2:00.67. Later she was third at the first turn and fourth in the second on her way to finishing sixth (in 1:04.55) in the 100 breast. Sacred Heart freshman Kennedy Lohman won the event in 1:02.17 as seven of the eighth finishers in that race achieved at least all-American consideration.
“What can you say?” LaVertu said. “The kid swam three All-American times in two days – phenomenal, out of this world.”
“It was great, my senior year, I go the fastest times I’ve ever been,” said Kessinger, who will enroll at the United States Military Academy at West Point after graduation. “Hopefully there’s faster to come.”
Collins freshman Ali Fort finished 13th overall, fifth in the consolation final, of the 100 backstroke. Fort, who entered the meet seeded 20th, finished 12th in Friday’s preliminaries.
“Ali did phenomenally well,” LaVertu said of Fort, who only has been swimming for two years. “I couldn’t be more proud of her and more excited about the next three years.”
Fort teamed up with fellow frosh Anna Bennett, junior Abby Borders and senior Erin Daugherty for 28th-place (4:05.11) – which was more than 3 seconds faster than the foursome’s region time – in the 400 freestyle relay.
“They all clicked at the same time,” LaVertu said.
On the boys’ side, Collins freshman Paul Cozzens was 27th (1:05.00) in the 100 breaststroke prelims. Titans senior Mitch Tunstall was 32nd.
Cozzens and Tunstall teamed up with junior Coy Romine and freshman Chase Poff for 30th in the 400 freestyle relay prelims and 32nd in the 200 free relay. Poff took the place of sophomore Paulo Ribenboim, who sliced open his foot during a flip turn in Thursday’s final practice.
“He did everything we asked him to do and then some,” LaVertu said of Poff.