February 10, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
The Wildcat swimming and diving team got their final tune up of the conference schedule before facing off against Benilde-St. Margaret's for the North Suburban crown this week.
Going into the meet, it was pretty evident based off of both team's best times this year that Chisago Lakes was simply going to overpower the Hylanders.
This allowed CL Head Coach Mark Nordby to swap guys into different events and break up the monotony of swimming the swam event over and over. "This was a good meet to look at guys in events they normally don't get to swim," Nordby explained.
Ryan Smith, James Falkowski, Sam Engel and Mitch Gebauer started the meet with a first place finish in the 200 medley relay.
Avery Turman, Beau Hawkinson and Alex Vrudny really got the ball rolling on a big lead when they went one-two-three in the 200 freestyle. The 'Cats won the event by 10 points and had a 16 point lead through two events already.
The Wildcats and Hylanders traded points over the next few events as Smith took first in the 50 freestyle. But, beginning with the 100 freestyle, Chisago Lakes ran away with the meet over the next three events. Gebauer, Turman and Engel went one-two-three in the 100 freestyle, Matt Mattson, Aaron Wiger and Noah Rockenback went one-two-four in the 500 freestyle and the Wildcats had three quartets in the top four in the 200 freestyle relay. Nordby noted that his senior captain Mattson really stepped up the distance, going from sprints this year to the long distance events for this meet. "Matt Mattson had a different night," he said. "A few years back, Matt swam a lot of distance events. Tonight he swam a decent 200 individual medley and 500 free, but I think he's glad to be a sprinter."
The three events ballooned the lead from 15 to 43, and it was basically out of reach for Columbia Heights. The Wildcats swam one more event for points, the 100 backstroke, extending the lead to 49, before moving to exhibition and giving the Hylanders the rest of the points. "Joey Eikens put together a great race in the 100 back. He's been stuck in the 1:05's for some time now so that was a nice break through for him," Nordby said after the meet. "He's not done dropping time in that event though."
The final tally of the meet was 94-70 in favor of Chisago Lakes. "Our speed is getting there," Nordby said of the teams overall goal. "We had some tough practices and still were able to nearly get the both 200 freestyles under 1:40. Not too many teams in the state can get both relays under that."
The win kept their NSC record perfect heading into a showdown with co-leaders of the conference Benilde-St. Margaret's. The two schools face off on Thursday night in the last NSC meet of the year for both squads.
Chisago Lakes topped the Red Knights last year, but it was about as close as a meet can get. Benilde led by two points with two events left, but Chisago Lakes took the lead when Turman, Falkowski and Hawkinson went one-three-four in the 100 breaststroke.
The 'Cats hung on for a two point win when they got the second and third place finishers in the 400 freestyle relay. The difference between a win and a loss was just over a half a second. CL's third place team of Eric Barnes, Nate Braski, Turman and Mattson bested BSM's fourth place team by .52 seconds. It should be a wild finish again as the teams clash with the stakes even higher.
"We look forward to taking on Benilde-St. Margaret's for the conference championship," Nordby said. "Whoever wins the meet is the outright champion. We'll be ready."