2/27/2014 4:38:00 PM Eight going to state for Chisago Lakes swimming and diving
by JEFF NORTON
The Chisago Lakes boys swimming and diving team picked a good time to have its best meet of the year, sending eight athletes to the state meet in 10 different events, winning the section academic championships and smashing records and opponents en route to those achievements. The Wildcats had one of their biggest hauls in recent memory behind a core of talented and hard-working swimmers. They also had to be mentally tough. The prelims were on Wednesday, February 19, and the finals were then supposed to be on Friday, February 21, but because of the snowstorm, the finals were moved back a day, keeping the Wildcats on their toes going into finals. “We were sitting pretty good after prelims. We had a few guys who were sick and did not perform as well as they normally would have,” Head Coach Brian McNally said. “That is always hard to see when they finish their season with an illness.” With the shorthanded prelims, the Wildcats sat behind Fridley in third place, and they needed to have some fast times in the finals to make up the deficit. With the way they started swimming, the margin was erased very early. “We definitely rose to that challenge and swam really well all across the team at finals. We made up 20 more points and finished clearly in second, 64 points ahead of Fridley.”
Spring Lake Park won the event with 571 points, but Chisago Lakes claimed that second spot convincingly with 432 points. Fridley came in third with 368. The Wildcats put athletes in the top three in 10 of the 12 events, and most of them qualified for the state tournament in more than one event. The foursome that led off with the 200 medley relay was the group that would earn the most berths for the Wildcats. Jake Ewert, James Falkowski, Riley Darling and Austin Turman finished in second place in the 200 medley realy with a time of 1:41.84. McNally thinks they have a shot at medaling at the state tourney. In the 200 individual medley, Ewert set a new school record with a 2:06.90, and earned an automatic berth to the state tournament. Ewert kept piling the medals and accolades up as the meet wore on. He qualfied in the 100 backstroke also, swimming a 1:00.04 to finish in third place in the event. He swam under a minute in prelims. He also teamed up with Derek Frank, Turman and Darling to smash the school record in the 400 free relay and earn a berth in a fourth event. They swam the event in 3:22.96, which was good enough for the automatic qualifying time for state and broke the school record by over a second. McNally figured the guys could break their own record again at the state tourney.
Darling was another swimmer who qualified in four events for the Wildcats. He was part of the aforementioned relay teams, and also earned berths in the 500 free and 100 fly. He was the champion in the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.75 seconds, and that’s not even his best event. In the 100 butterfly, Darling finished in second place at 54.93 seconds. “He should do well at state and could medal,” McNally said. Turman will be going in three events, the two free relays, and then he finished second in the 100 freestyle in a time of 51.12 seconds. He swam an even faster 50.70 in the prelims for CL. Frank added his second qualifying time of the day in the same event, coming in third place in the event with a time of 51.71 seconds. Frank also qualified as part of the 200 free relay team. Falkowski used his two relay opportunities to earn three state tournament berths. He earned his first in the 400 medley relay. His second came in the 200 free relay.
The foursome of Falkowski, Matt Braun, Jacob Carlson and Frank finished in third place with a time of 1:37.32 To cap off his day, Falkowski earned his third straight state tournament berth in the 100 breaststroke. He was the champion in Section 4A with a time of 1:02.56. He has been close to a medal before, and this could be his year to crack the top eight. In diving, Jake Doble finished in second place with a 383.10 and earned his second straight berth to the state tournament. He could also get near a podium finish with a strong state performance. Jake Carlson became one of the rare CL athletes who was able to qualify for the state tournament in a swimming event and in diving. He had already punched his ticket as part of the 200 free relay, but Carlson also finished third in the diving portion of the meet with a score of 348.35. With all three relay teams going to state, McNally figures the Wildcats will be bringing about seven alternates, and he doesn’t rule out the possibility of making some changes before the big meet. “I am working on finalizing my list and I may mix up the relays a bit to ensure that they make the second day at state, which is a top 16 finish,” he said.
McNally knows the results matter, but the ride has been the important part this year for the first year coach. “They are such a fun team to coach. They know how to get up for big races and outperform expectations,” he said. “They had some really gutsy swims. We have a small but solid core of seniors. I will really miss them on a personal level, but first I will get to enjoy watching them shine at the state meet. We are looking VERY good in a few events.” The state tournament will begin Thursday, February 27 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center with the Class A divers taking the board at noon. Only Doble and Carlson will compete that day. The swimmers will test their mettle against the best in Minnesota on Friday, February 28 at noon in the same venue. Swimming tickets will NOT be available on Thursday at the diving meet.