LINCOLN — Those eagerly awaiting the end of the Omaha Creighton Prep swimming dynasty saw Saturday their patience will likely be tested at least a few more years if the Tate family has anything to say about it.
After being contributors as freshmen on Prep's state championship team last year, sophomore twins Sean and Ryan Tate stepped to the fore Saturday as centerpieces to the Junior Jays' seventh consecutive title team.
The Tates combined for three individual titles, were part of a record-breaking team in the 200-yard freestyle relay and added their names to a pair of the state's top-10 all-time lists.
“Those guys are special talents, I think,” Prep coach Tom Beck said. “They have a huge future ahead of them. They could be phenomenal swimmers. They were just real tough competitors for us today. They didn't back down from anything. They stepped up and swam close-to-perfect races every time they had.”
Sean Tate swept the freestyle sprints Saturday with state titles in both the 50- and 100-yard races. His time of 20.76 seconds in the 50 freestyle final is good for sixth on the state's all-time list and was one-tenth of a second better than his preliminary time Friday, which was eighth-best all-time. He dominated the 100 freestyle in 46.42, finishing 1.25 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Lucas Van Wie of Grand Island.
After a fourth-place finish in the 50 freestyle last year, Sean Tate knocked a second off his time. He said Saturday he believes the state record of 20.45 seconds, set by Norfolk's David Morrow in 1997, may be within reach before his career is over, and he may have an outside shot of eclipsing the 100 freestyle record of 44.51 set last year by Ryan Miksch of Columbus.
“The record was kind of in mind this year in the 50,” he said. “I'm really looking forward to next year or the year after that to try to get those records.”
While Sean Tate is a freestyle specialist, Ryan Tate displayed his versatility. Ryan's winning mark of 1:53.68 in the 200 individual medley Saturday places him seventh on the all-time list. He added a third-place finish in the 100 butterfly, a race his teammate, Jacob Molacek, won with a state-record time of 48.68 seconds.
It was Ryan's second straight third-place finish at the state meet in the butterfly, which he considers his best event and the one where he's eyeballing a climb on to the top-10 list in his final two seasons.
“I've just got to keep practicing and focus,” Ryan Tate said.
The two brothers shared in another state record Saturday when they swam the second and third legs on Prep's championship 200 freestyle relay, which set a state mark in 1:23.45.
“That was awesome,” Sean Tate said. “It was awesome to share with my brother and share it with Mike Bauwens, and Jacob (Molacek).”
Beck said the Tates have the natural size to excel in the pool, but it's their competitiveness that could make them stars on the state swimming scene for the next two years.
“They're big. They've got long limbs, big hands, big feet,” Beck said. “They just have the ability to raise their level when push comes to shove. When it's time to show up big at the big meet, they're the guys we can rely on.”
The individual state titles won by the Tates were the first of their high school careers. With two high school seasons left, they will have more chances to move their names higher on the state's all-time marks.
It's one reason Beck had to smile as asked to consider next season, when the Junior Jays will try for a record-breaking eighth consecutive state title.
“We're just lucky to have them,” the coach said, “because they're going to be two of the best swimmers in the state the next couple years.”
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