While he was exhausted from his race, Borgia junior Michael Matthews still found enough energy for an enormous smile Saturday afternoon at the St. Peters Rec-Plex.
Matthews was presented with Borgia’s first-ever state swimming medal for placing eighth in the MSHSAA 100-yard butterfly finals.
“It feels good,” Matthews said soon after receiving his state medal. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Matthews said the state experience was more than he ever envisioned.
“It’s more than what I thought would happen,” Matthews said. “We have an awesome coach, Jen (Jennifer Alferman-Molitor), and she really pushed us. She pushed me a lot to get here.”
Alferman-Molitor was proud of Michael’s performance.
“The finals race was really tough, but he held his own,” Alferman-Molitor said. “He accomplished his goal of ending in the top eight this season.”
Matthews recorded a time of 53.94 to finish eighth in the championship race. MSHSAA runs boys swimming as a one-classification sport, meaning that all schools, from the biggest to smallest, swim in one competition.
In the final race, Matthews had been as high as fifth, according to unofficial in-race statistics.
For the second consecutive day, Glendale senior Will Brand had the fastest time and won the state title. His time Saturday was 50.77, or .29 of a second faster than his preliminary time.
Luke Sloan, a senior at Saint Louis University High, was second at 51.00.
Third place went to Parkway West senior Tommy Christiansen with a time of 51.72.
Parkway Central senior Riley Brown was fourth in 52.32 while Rockhurst sophomore AJ Iseman took fifth at 52.6.
Cole Roberts, a senior at Liberty North, was sixth in 53.06, Park Hill South swimmer Travis Colpitts took seventh in 53.86 and Matthews was eighth in 53.94.
For his finish, Matthews received a state medal and scored 11 team points for the first-year Borgia program. Michael was Borgia’s only state-qualified swimmer this year.
“Many of the coaches at state were very surprised that Borgia was a new team and that we were at state,” Alferman-Molitor said. “Many coaches congratulated us on earning a place at state in our first year. They were all really impressed.”
With those 11 points, Borgia tied for 34th in the meet along with Kirkwood and Blue Springs.
Rockhurst won the championship with 220 points while Blue Springs South was second at 163 and Lee’s Summit North took third at 161.
Rounding out the top five were Parkway Center at 143.5 and John Burroughs at 133.
Matthews entered the state meet as the 20th-fastest swimmer, but sawed 1.85 seconds off of his qualifying time of 55.21 to record a 53.36 during his preliminary race.
“Michael did great at state,” Alferman-Molitor said. “I knew that he was going to surprise everyone in the prelims. He is a very competitive swimmer and he never really saw much competition in the 100 fly this season. He did manage to drop time during the season but it was just a few milliseconds. I knew that once he got in a pool with some tough competition he would really drop time and he did. It was his best time ever.”
That allowed Matthews to jump from his seventh seed in the heat to second in the final finish and from 20th overall to seventh and a place in the state championship race.
The top eight swimmers qualified for the championship heat while swimmers placed ninth through 16th swam in a consolation race Saturday. All 16 swimmers Saturday earned points for their respective teams.
Alferman-Molitor indicated Matthews worked extremely hard in recent weeks to prepare for the state meet.
“For the last few weeks we really worked on his technique and his strategy,” Alferman-Molitor said. “In the end that paid off. He swam flawlessly and incorporated everything we worked on. He made me proud to be his coach.”
Alferman-Molitor also coached Matthews with the Washington Swim Team in recent years, and that made for a smooth transition into high school swimming for Matthews.
“I knew what she was about and she knew what I was all about,” Matthews said.
Matthews said he was thrilled when he heard Borgia was adding swimming this season.
“I was pumped,” Michael said. “Going through two years of high school without a swim team, I never thought we would have one.”
Matthews had two older brothers, Cameron and Tommy, who competed for the Washington Swim Team, but graduated before Borgia started its high school program.
“My brothers are probably pretty jealous that we have a team now,” Michael said. “They were pretty good swimmers, too. I’ve learned a lot from them.”
While he’s new to the prep swimming scene, Matthews has been a competitive swimmer most of his life.
“I started when I was 5 or 6 and have been swimming ever since,” Matthews said.