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Perhaps Swimming World magazine should be renamed Baylor School magazine.

Baylor won Swimming World's independent school national championship last summer and is poised to win independent and overall titles this year. The Aqua Raiders finished third overall a year ago but have assembled superior state-meet times to every other school in the country.

"We have a strong case to be made," coach Dan Flack said, "and we're clearly No. 1 with only one state left."

That state is California, which will hold its series of meets in late May and early June. Baylor could learn of its crowning by July 1, though the magazine issue will not be available until later that month.

Last year's independent title was the first for Baylor, which finished second in 1979 and 1980.

The Aqua Raiders will be sharing the spotlight with the Lady Raiders, who could capture an independent crown as well. Flack said his girls currently stand No. 2 overall behind Carmel (Ind.) High School.

"These will be even more gratifying, because it's a real culmination for the seniors," Flack said. "Sloane Pitman and Nathan Vredeveld and Greg Roop have come so far as people, and it's carried over in their ability to compete and come through in clutch situations. That wasn't necessarily a strength when I came here and they were sophomores, so to see kids like that grow up is remarkably exciting for me."

Pitman's time of 22.53 seconds is the fastest nationally among girls in the 50-yard freestyle, and she was the anchor leg of the 200 medley relay that ranks No. 1 and set national high-school and independent records with a 1:41.63. Arden Pitman, Alison Lusk and Anna Ray Gwarjanski comprised the first three legs.

The Pitman sisters teamed with Lusk and Emma Michaels to swim a 1:33.35 in the 200 free relay, which ranks second nationally, and Arden's time of 53.89 seconds in the 100 backstroke is sixth.

Baylor's boys also have the top-rated 200 medley relay after Reese Shirey, Spencer Rowe, Roop and Josh Sosna turned in a time of 1:31.52. The 200 free relay team of Roop, Shirey, Josh and Jake Sosna ranks second nationally (1:22.72), while the 400 free relay team of Roop, Matt Limerick, Vredeveld and Martin Grodzki is fifth (3:04.01).

Grodzki ranks fifth in the 500 free with a time of 4:23.73, while Roop (48.92 in the 100 butterfly) and Rowe (56.53 in the 100 breaststroke) are in contention to score points with top-16 national times. When Roop and Vredeveld were eighth-graders, Baylor finished 14th in the state.

"I remember thinking that 14th was just awful, but we had a strong class in eighth grade that year and thought we could make a huge difference that next year," Roop said. "A lot of us placed in the top five that next year, and we ended up getting second. That was kind of a miracle year, but I never dreamed that we would be in the position we're in right now.

"Coach Flack has probably played the biggest role in this. He's a fantastic motivator and always has us as the most enthusiastic team in any meet."

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