February 9, 2012 at 11:26 a.m.
Chisago Lakes 56, Irondale 45
Chisago Lakes held up their end of the bargain when it came to this week’s North Suburban Conference swimming showdown unbeaten still after downing Irondale last week.
However, Benilde-St. Margaret’s can’t say the same, as they dropped a close meet to St. Louis Park last week, pushing them to third place in the North Suburban behind unbeaten CL and SLP, who’s only loss is to the ‘Cats this year.
The only thing that it changes is that the Wildcats will clinch a share of the NSC title even with a loss, but a win over the Red Knights would wrap up the conference title outright for them for the second year in a row.
“Benilde will be tough. They have a couple of the top swimmers in the conference in Eric McGinn and Alex Roe,” Head Coach Mark Nordby said. “It should be a rocking night of swimming and diving and I think a few more pool records will go down.”
The Wildcats didn’t get their easily, though, as Irondale provided a little bit of a tough test in the penultimate meet.
With only a five lane pool, the ‘Cats aren’t able to flaunt their depth as much as usual, and it made the Irondale meet closer than most of the meets had been this year.
“We swam a bit tired [that night] which actually is OK by me,” Nordby explained. “That tells me we are training correctly and still focused on the end of the season. Swimming is a sport where the payoff isn't immediate but a gradual build up of intensity in practices. Right now we are training pretty hard and as expected, our times were a bit off.”
The 200 medley relay began the night with a win as Sam Engel, David Lange, James Falkowski and Mitch Gebauer cruised to a win while Joey Eikens, Al Vrudny, Nate Braski and Konner Doble finished in third place.
Gebauer grabbed another first place when he swam the 50 freestyle in 23.74 seconds, helping extend the ‘Cats lead to 20-14.
The low-scoring meet stayed fairly close for a while, as only two points separated the teams after three more events.
However, CL’s relay teams, as they’ve done most of the year, piled on the points down the stretch and began to pull the ‘Cats away from the Knights.
It began with only nine points separating the teams at 34-25 going into the 200 free relay. Lange, Eric Barnes, Gebauer and Avery Turman teamed up to finish in first with a 1:37.10. Vrudny, Braski, Beau Hawkinson and Doble followed behind in second place with a 1:39.20.
The one-two sweep in the event meant CL came out of it 9-1 and ballooned their lead to 43-26 with only three events left. Back-to-back first place finishes by Engel and Falkowski in the 100 back and 100 breast gave the Wildcats a 20-point lead with one event left and allowed them to swim exhibition in the last relay.
“James Falkowski has been a bit stuck in the 1:07's and 1:08's this season in his breaststroke, so to see him crack into the 1:06's was good,” Nordby said. “He's still working some technique issues underwater in the event. Once that's taken care of, he'll really drop.”
Despite the exhibition swim in the last event, the meet was really a toss up until that 200 free relay that the ‘Cats dominated, and Nordby knew that. “Irondale was hanging with for much of the meet until the 200 free relay,” he said. “Then we lowered the hammer with a one-two finish and cruised to a win.”
The ‘Cats now host Benilde-St. Margaret’s to determine the conference champion on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m.