By Brady Extin | Daily Reporter

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Mt. Vernon boys swimming team entered Friday’s IHSAA Boys Swimming State Finals preliminaries with the hopes of improving on last year’s state placements, and qualifying events for Saturday.

They did that, but not without heartbreak.

In the fourth event of the night, the 50-yard freestyle, senior Brady Gray swam a time of 21.03 seconds, and at the time was in a top-eight position, with two heats remaining, and a spot in the championship final. After Heat 3, he still held a championship position. But a 21.03 time by Bedford North Lawrence’s Cole Baker in the final heat tied Gray and Munster’s Isaac Martin.

With only eight swimmers making the championship final, the trio had a swim-off after the conclusion of the final event of the night to decide the final two spots in today’s championship final.

Making the turn just behind the other two, Gray gained ground on Martin for the final spot, but fell just short. His time of 21.17 was beaten out by .02 seconds and puts him in the consolation final.

“I was really excited for it, and I thought it was going to be the perfect ending to my high school career to get top eight,” Gray said.

“I just told him, go do what you do best. Just go out and race, and he did that,” Mt. Vernon head coach Brad Grieshop said. “He went out and did his thing, it just so happens that tonight wasn’t in our favor.”

It might not have been the perfect ending that Gray was hoping for, but unlike a season ago, the Marauders will have a Saturday participant.

Along with the ninth-place finish in the 50 free, Gray qualified for the consolation finals in his other individual event, the 100 free. His time of 46.78 earned him 13th place.

“It’s kind of overshadowed by not getting top eight. That was my focus since the day I got 24th my sophomore year, and then I got 24th again last year,” Gray said. “I’m happy with the times and stuff like that, but it’s hard not to be disappointed.”

Both times and finishes are big improvements from a year ago, in which Gray placed 24th in each event.

“It was just his confidence. Just understanding what this environment entails and the pressure that comes with the performance on a Friday night when you’re trying to make it back on Saturday,” Grieshop said. “We had been building his confidence back all summer and got it there and just continued to build on it all year.”

Gray wasn’t the only Marauder to improve from a season ago.

Senior Matthew Garey improved his placement and time in the 200 individual medley, and senior Ethan Murphy improved on his time in the 100 backstroke.

Garey’s time of 1:56.36 earned him a 19th place finish, up from 22nd a season ago, and was his fastest time as a member of the Mt. Vernon team.

“He just wanted that best time. Top 16 (and a spot in either the championship or consolation finals) obviously was the overall goal there, but he just got done and was like, ‘I just swam my best time’,” Grieshop said. “I think that’s what meant most to him. It was still his best time in his last individual swim for the Marauders.”

For Murphy, he placed 33rd in the 100 backstroke, but cut nearly two seconds off of his previous state prelim time with a 55.75.

The trio, along with sophomore Adison Mayes, also saw much higher finishes in both the 200 free and 400 free relays and were just off of the qualifying line in each event.

They placed 19th in the 200 free with a time of 1:28.16 and finished in 20th in the 400 free with a time of 3:15.99. Last year, the Marauders placed 30th in both events.

“They were great. We were right there on the cusp,” Grieshop said. “It’s always tough trying to come down and swim fast again, and I think all our relays and individuals were faster than sectional.”

Gray will end his Mt. Vernon career with two more swims in today’s consolation finals beginning at 1 p.m. at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis.