February 17, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.
After years of getting toppled by Benilde-St. Margaret's or St. Louis Park, the Chisago Lakes boys swimming and diving team finally broke through against both teams.
After besting the Orioles earlier this year, the 'Cats went into their showdown with BSM with the North Suburban Conference title on the line. It was simple: the winner would be champion, the loser would be second place.
As expected, the meet was tight all the way through. After three events, it was 23-23, after nine events it was 73-67 in favor of Chisago Lakes, and all the events in between were a constant back and forth.
Despite Benilde actually earning the first place finish in a lot of the events, Chisago Lakes flaunted their depth, winning the point battle in a lot of the events. "Once again, our depth proved to be the factor in this meet, " Head Coach Mark Nordby said. "Benilde won seven of the 11 events, but we outscored them in seven of the events, which is needed against a team like Benilde.
Ryan Smith was the first swimmer to earn a top spit in the 200 freestyle, and he did it again in the 500 freestyle.
With only two events left to go, the 'Cats were clinging to a six-point lead. The first event up was the breaststroke, and the CL breaststrokes made sure to eliminate any of the anxiety with a dominating performance.
James Falkowski led them, earning first place with a 1:09.77. Beau Hawkinson came in just behind his teammate with a 1:10.82 for second place and Al Vrudny cleaned up the one-two-three sweep with a 1:14.17.
The sweep stretched CL's lead from a nerve-wracking six to an insurmountable 16 with only one event left. They took the top two spots in the last relay event to stretch the lead into a 26-point blowout.
" 'All in' has been our mantra all season, and this meet proved again that every swimmer was needed to win the conference," Nordby said. "This is a special team of guys who've really worked hard. Earlier this season, they showed their depth by winning the conferecne relays and now they wrapped up an undefeated dual meet season and the NSC crown with a win over BSM!"
Despite the big win, Nordby was a little worried heading into the match with Benilde. "It was a little nerve-wracking going into the Benilde meet since the guys were pretty worn down with training," he said. "It's just that time in the season where we can't cut back the intensity of the workouts and have to keep pumping weights."
Nordby attributed some of the slower times of the meet to it being in the primetime for section tapers. "We didnt swim our best times of the year, and if we had, I would've been worried that we hadn't been training hard enough."
Chisago Lakes Invite
With the final tune up before sections, the Wildcats hosted Class AA Cambridge-Isanti and South St. Paul over the weekend.
"This is a great tune up and practice for what we will face at sections with a Thursday-Saturday contest," Nordby explained. "Cambridge-Isanti's seed times should've broken several meet/pool records, but they also came in very worn down and tired. It's just a signal to us that taper time is here and the guys certainly look ready to being letting their speed come out and resting up the body."
The Bluejackets won the meet pretty handily, scoring 152 points, with Chisago Lakes in second at 111 points. South St. Paul scored 67 points in third place.
Nordby said it will be the same teams to beat as it was last year: Sartell, Grand Rapids, Virginia and Hibbing.
But, he also expects his troops to be at or near the top this season. "We'll be in the mix and I know the guys will be fast based on how hard they've trained."
The section prelims start on Thursday at 3 p.m. in Hibbing, and the finals are on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. in the same pool.