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Maize South’s Jonathon Lavalle swims with a goal in mind

Published Dec. 4 at 5:48 p.m. | Last updated Dec. 4 at 5:50 p.m.

Competitive swimmers are frequently motivated by the stopwatch. It’s the nature of a sport in which the next level of achievement is dictated by time.

For Maize South senior Jonathon Lavalle, the number is 49.50 seconds. The reigning Class 5-1A champion in the 100-yard backstroke would like to hit or break that barrier by the conclusion of his high school career.

“I have it written down a bunch of different places,” said Lavalle, who opens the season with the Mavericks on Saturday at the Maize Invitational. “I have that number in my head.”

Lavalle dominated the event at last February’s state championships, posting a time of 53.06 to defeat runner-up Kevin McGowan of Shawnee Heights by more than two seconds. Lavalle’s preliminary time of 52.50 was even faster.

Get it to 49.50, Lavalle figures, and much of what he would love to accomplish would fall into place. It could potentially be a state meet record, earn him All-America honors or pique the interest of Division I college programs.

“The work ethic is there,” Maize South coach Hussein Yassine said. “He’s always mentally prepared for his races. You don’t have to worry a lot about coaching him; just a couple things before a race and he’s good to go.

“He executes it with a lot of precision. There are very few flaws in his race.”

Lavalle’s backstroke also helped Maize South win the 5-1A title in the 200-yard medley relay last season. He finished third in the 200 individual medley and 200 freestyle relay as the Mavericks earned third as a team behind Shawnee Mission South and Topeka Hayden.

Lavalle’s reaction to his victory in the 100 backstroke exemplified the type of competitor he is, Yassine said.

“He wasn’t totally happy with his result,” he said. “He was happy and humble that he won, but he wanted to go 51 (seconds). He kind of popped up and shook his head, but then he also realized he’d just won state.”

Lavalle, who first discovered his talent in the backstroke at age 12 with the Wichita Aqua Shocks, said focusing on the fundamentals of the stroke is his biggest key to cutting time. It is difficult to doubt his dedication.

Throughout high school, Lavalle has spent more than a month of each summer in Minnesota, where his father lives. Aqua Shocks coach Brandon Buehne provided him with swimming workouts, which he did on his own.

“In the long run, I think it’s made me a stronger swimmer,” Lavalle said. “You’re in a place where you don’t have teammates pushing you or a coach making you do it.

“I feel now that if I’m working in a group and other people might be slacking off, I am able to push myself to my highest level.”

Perhaps the next level. Where 49.50 resides.

AREA BOYS SWIMMERS TO WATCH

Campus – Robert Youel, sr.; Logan Murphy, jr.; Brandon Elkins, jr.; Jon Greenlee, so.; Jon Fleming, so.

Collegiate – Jake Barrett, sr.; Jack Naron, sr.; Trent Pirner, jr.

Derby – Carl Mayou, sr.; Kole Nottingham, sr.; Justin Kim, sr.; Liam Ormiston, jr.

El Dorado – Tanner Clites, sr.; Breck Towner, jr.; Keagan Wilson, so.; Ridge Towner, fr.; Isaac Haahr, fr.

Hutchinson – Adam Ferguson, sr.; Cord Harrington, jr.; Cole Young, so.

Independent – Richard Zirkle, sr.; Michael Doyel, jr.

Maize – Kyle Allison, sr.; Jake Omo, sr.; Colin Olson, sr.; Chris Clemons, jr.; Preston Barley, so.

Maize South – Jonathon Lavalle, sr., 5-1A champion in 100 backstroke; Jacob Evraets, jr.; Jonathan Cole, sr.

McPherson – Kyler Jost, sr.; Zane Richter, sr.

Newton – Preston Ford, sr.; Jace Schmidt, jr.

Rose Hill – Matt Baden, sr.; Brady Mounts, jr.; Austin Farber, so.; Gavin Smith, so.

Trinity Academy – Brandon Mitchell, jr.; Noah Patton, jr.; David Vigilius, so.

Winfield – Jesse Hollingsworth, sr.; Jay Buffum, jr.