Lansing women’s swimming bridges gap from pandemic year, returns to state

Jason Brown
The Leavenworth Times
Shown are the six Lansing and one Basehor-Linwood women's swimming state qualifiers

When the season started, Lansing’s women’s swimming team wasn’t where it wanted to be. The team was lacking experience with just two returning state qualifiers left from 2019, after the COVID-19 pandemic nixed the entire season for the Lion swimmers in 2020. 

“We didn’t have that opportunity to instill culture and understand what it meant to try and qualify for state,” Lions head coach David Bresser said. “We had a couple of consideration times early in the season but nothing that was definitive.”

Something changed for the Lions as they will take six swimmers to the state meet Saturday after capturing their fourth consecutive United Kansas Conference title earlier in the month. 

“I think at some point, some of the girls started to think it (state) was out of reach,” he said, “but things just started to come together as we started putting the pieces together after not having last season.”

Lansing’s six swimmers include Ellie Johnson, Celia Perez, Alexis Buchholz, Kailyn Cline, Caitlynn Kankelfitz and Jana Burnett.

Bresser said Johnson, who is competing in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle as well as the 200 freestyle relay, has made the most of her junior season after missing out on last year.

“She was brand new and had never swam (competitively) before,” he said. “She got a taste of the competition her freshman year, was really excited for her sophomore year and then lost it. Now she’s an automatic qualifier in individual events and is probably one of the best freestylers on our team.”

Cline will swim the 50-yard freestyle while Buchholz is set for the 100-yard breaststroke.

The team of Perez, Buchholz, Cline and Johnson are set to swim the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay. Burnett will join Cline, Perez and Johnson for the 400-yard freestyle relay.

While Cline is the top swimmer on the freestyle relay teams, Bresser said the other three swimmers rose to the occasion in qualifying for state. 

“The other three girls on those teams came together and swam as a really outstanding relay team this year,” he said. “As a coach, it’s just trying throughout the season to find the four girls that will make a great team.”

Shown is Basehor-Linwood junior Emma Jackson. Jackson is the first women's swimmer from Basehor-Linwood to qualify for the state meet and will swim the 200- and 500-yard freestyle.

In addition to Lansing’s six swimmers, Basehor-Linwood will send its first women’s swimmer to state through a co-op agreement. Junior Emma Jackson is qualified to swim the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events after making consideration times. Jackson was nearly joined by three teammates to swim relay events, but the consideration times weren’t enough to qualify. Regardless, the Bobcats carried 15 swimmers on the women’s side this season and took third place at the UKC meet.

“I think seeing that they were so close will make them even hungrier for next year,” Bresser said. “I hope next year that we don’t have to do a co-op and they can become their own separate team because they have the numbers and they’re competitive. It’s been great to see them show their growth and improvement.”

The future is looking bright for the Lions as well with many of the state qualifiers slated to return next season as well as the chance to have a normal offseason again. 

“I feel really outstanding,” he said. “We are graduating some seniors, but not the number we had last year.”

“This has been a rough season because we didn’t have last season to build on,” he said. “It’s been a little more of a growth process and as the season wore on, we saw a growth in maturity amongst our student athletes.”