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EDMONDS, Oklahoma, February 25. IT took 40 years for the Stillwater Pioneers to return to the top of the podium stand, and the first-ever at an Oklahoma High School 5A Swimming and Diving Championships. They didn't have an easy time of it, relying on their depth to secure the title by just five points over the Altus Bulldogs, 263 to 258, during the meet held February 21-22 in Edmonds.
On the girls side, the Fort Gibson Tigers secured their fourth straight banner with an easy 247.5 to 207 triumph over Stillwater, who have been runners-up the last three years.
Stillwater came within 9-hundredths of taking the 200 medley relay, finishing in 1:44.11 to Piedmont's 1:44.02. Swimming for Piedmont were Tyler St. John (freshman), Conner St. John (junior), Jarrod Pein (freshman) and Lane Tooman (senior); Stillwater's relay was made up of Charles Clark (senior), Ben Cowles (sophomore), Layne Njaa (senior) and Kyle Goebel (senior). Individual top-three Stillwater placings included Clark (second, 500 free, 4:56.34; third, 100 fly, 54.71) and Cowles (third, 100 breast, 1:04.20; third, 200 IM, 2:06.38).
Four swimmers collected two event triumphs each: Garrett Thompson, a senior at Altus (50 free, 21.78; 100 free, 48.65); Harrah senior Riley Bunyard (200 free, 1:45.57; 500 free, 4:46.17); Bryan Lee, a Bixby junior (100 back, 52.13; 100 fly, 52.06) and Piedmont's St. John (100 breast, 59.72; 200 IM, 1:55.83).
Altus' 200 free relay quartet of Walker Sacco (sophomore), Mathew Aguilar (junior), Daniel Brown (sophomore) and Thompson set the only boys state record, clocking 1:31.48 to take out Heritage Hall's 1:31.63 from 2010. Altus also claimed victory in the 400 free (3:23.34) with the team of Sacco, junior Jacob Oden, Brown and Thompson.
Bixby came in third (228), followed by Fort Gibson (221) and Piedmont (157).
Jessi Hildebrand, a Newcastle senior, lowered her 500 free state record from 2012 (5:09.17) with this year's swim of 5:05.29. Hildebrand also came in first in the 100 fly (58.17). Also winning two events at the championship were Heritage Hall junior Avery Niemann, who doubled in the 100 and 200 free (53.21 and 1:54.09), and MacArthur senior Karen Chao in the 50 free (25.44) and the 100 back (1:00.90).
The Tigers were led by senior Leslie White, who posted a winning 1:07.71 in the 100 breast and finished second in the 200 IM (2:15.35) to Piedmont senior Kasey Rein (2:11.84). White swam on both first-place Fort Gibson relays as well. The 200 medley relay of Sara Nichols (sophomore), White, Whitney Stroup (senior) and Delainie Terrell (freshman) clocked 1:58.96. Seniors Audrey Ross and Kyla Martin joined Terrell and White in the 200 free relay (1:48.83).
Stillwater's 400 free relay squad of freshmen Isabelle Smith and Alexx Thomas, sophomore Kayla Dunn and junior Brooke Njaa ended the competition with a winning 3:54.65.
Harrah finished third with 162 points. Fourth through sixth places were decided by just four points, as Carl Albert emerged in fourth (139) with Kingfisher fifth (137) and Booker T. Washington sixth (135).
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Results: High School State Championships: Oklahoma 5A