With little in the way of in-person competition, Caden DeLay looked to the Platte County record board for some added motivation in his final home meet.
The standout senior won the 100-yard butterfly race in a six-team competition Tuesday, Oct. 10 at Platte County Community Center North, breaking a two-year-old program record in the process. DeLay’s time of 54.90 seconds bettered former teammate Josh Richardson’s mark of 55.76 set in 2015.
DeLay set a Platte County record for the third time this season and put up his fourth automatic qualifying time in an individual event for the Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships, even if the butterfly time came as a bit of pleasant surprise.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I was there with Josh Richardson, who was the record-setter. I watched him in that race. I thought back to sophomore year, and thought, ‘I want to get to that point.’ Looking up at my time, I thought I went slower. Looking at that time, I was still kind of starstruck.
“That’s the third record I’ve broken, and the feeling always gets me still.”
While honoring five swimmers on senior night, Platte County swept all 12 events and scored 682 points to outclass Smithville, Lincoln Prep, KC East, Central Academy of Excellence and Northeast.
DeLay also won the 100 breaststroke — his best event — while Platte County sophomore Joe Ragone matched his two individual victories, taking the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Other individual winners for the Pirates included freshman Matteo Herrera (200 freestyle), Hunter Bowen (200 individual medley), Isaac Cook (1-meter diving), senior Jerry Orozco (100 freestyle) and Rhett Spell (500 freestyle).
DeLay posted the only automatic state qualifying cut, the sixth for Platte County swimming this season.
However, the new state system could offer more chances for Platte County this season and not just because two meets remain on the schedule. The two-class system increases opportunities for small schools, and the addition of “consideration cuts” to fill out the fields adds incentives.
“It’s more possible for people to get there,” said Platte County junior Alex Beall, who has the Pirates’ only other individual automatic state qualifying time (100 backstroke). “It’s easier for people who are younger to get up there, and I feel glad because I love every guy on my team. If they put the work in, they should be able to get (to state).
“For me, I didn’t want to get state on a consideration time. I didn’t want it to be left to chance.”
Beall made the first individual state cut of his career in the recent Eubank Invitational.
During warmups, an opponent from Belton indicated a desire to top Beall’s season-best time. He used the short pre-race conversation for motivation and won the 100 backstroke at the meet in 57.75 — just .04 of a second underneath the automatic qualifying time.
At first, Beall thought he came up just short before finding out through the reaction of Spell and an announcement over the facility’s loudspeaker.
“I wasn’t feeling anything special,” Beall said. “On that race, I was getting up on the blocks, but this season, things had slowed down a little bit. Usually, before getting up on the blocks, I get like an adrenaline rush, but I hadn’t been getting that. I was about to get up on the blocks, and I was getting that rush again.
“I got in the water and swam a race, and I could tell it was a good race.”
While Beall will be a first-time state participant, DeLay has now qualified for state in three consecutive seasons. Previously, he went in the 100 breaststroke as a sophomore and junior, finishing 16th in the one-class state competition a year ago to become just the second in program history to earn a consolation state medal.
DeLay set the 100 breaststroke school record at state last year and then lowered his mark to 1:00.76 last month. He also set a school record in the 100 freestyle in late August — 49.91 to become the first in Pirates history to go below 50 seconds in the event — and qualified for state in the 50 freestyle before setting a season-best in that event at the recent COMO Invitational. His time in the 50 freestyle of 22.44 is just .22 of a second off the Platte County record of 22.22 Chad Stephenson set in 2005.
Currently, DeLay ranks No. 3 in Class 1 for the 100 breaststroke and No. 8 in the 50 freestyle and now No. 12 in the 100 butterfly. While the focus shifts to his best events for the Suburban Conference Blue Division Championships this weekend and state, he hasn’t ruled out going to the “last chance meet” to take a run at least one more state qualifying time.
“I’ve always focused a lot on freestyle and the breaststroke,” DeLay said. “But why not (try for more)? I haven’t decided on that yet.”
In addition to DeLay’s four individual marks and Beall’s spot in the 100 backstroke, Platte County has also qualified the 200 medley relay — the first state-bound relay since the 2015 medley team that also included DeLay. The Pirates currently rank No. 7 in Class 1 for that event.
However, Platte County’s 200 and 400 freestyle teams both currently rank in the top 15 for Class 1 with consideration times. With up to 32 relays eligible to compete at state, both of the Pirates’ freestyle teams should easily make the cut.
In addition, swimmers can only compete in two individual events and two relays at state, meaning other swimmers with consideration times could advance. The first-year system creates some unknowns for those on Platte County’s team who have yet to post an automatic time.
For example, Orozco posted a season-best consideration time of 51.97 in the 100 freestyle last week — a mark that ranked No. 41 in Class 1. If enough automatic or consideration qualifiers in front of him opt to compete in different events, he could earn his first state berth.
Platte County won’t rule out any team goals and will take as many swimmers as possible and hope the new system yields memorable results.
“It’s not just going to be me,” DeLay said. “There’s going to be a lot of potential for that meet. It’s going to be an amazing sight to see. I’ve never been through this; neither has anyone else. We’ll just see what happens when we get there.”