March 8, 2012 at 12:06 p.m.

Quartet earns seventh, Engel places twice

Quartet earns seventh, Engel places twice
Quartet earns seventh, Engel places twice

MSHSL State Swimming and Diving Tournament
Although the Chisago Lakes boys swimming and diving team had been qualifying a handful of guys for the state tournament the past few years, it had been some time since they put someone on the podium with a top eight finish.
Senior Sam Engel broke that drought, though, finishing seventh in the 100 yard backstroke and swimming the third leg of the 200 medley relay team that finished in seventh place.
 
“Overall we had a decent state meet. The times this year were incredibly fast in most events and just making second day was a pretty huge task,” Head Coach Mark Nordby said. “So, to come away with two All-State finishes and three more school records is a very nice accomplishment.”  
 
Engel squeezed into the finals of the 100 backstroke by finishing in eighth place in the prelims with a time of 55:76 seconds. With the top eight finish, Engel couldn’t finish off of the podium in the second day, so he had an All-State selection wrapped up.
 
“Sam’s been working toward an All-State place for a couple of years and now he put himself in the position for that,” Nordby said.
 
In the finals, something was a bit off with Engel, but that didn’t stop him from jumping up a spot and taking seventh place with a time of 56.04 seconds.
“Sam didn’t feel right in the water Saturday for finals and had to really work to get that seventh place finish,” Nordby explained. “He’s always looking to go faster than he did and that’s partly what makes him a great competitor.  Sam accomplished in three years what some swimmers at state have been working on for many more years.  That took a tremendous amount of off-season training to become All-State.”  
 
Engel was also a part of the 200 medley relay team that opened the state tournament. The other three competitors included senior David Lange doing the butterfly, sophomore James Falkowski doing the breaststroke and senior Mitch Gebauer doing the anchor freestyle.
 
The boys got off to a fast start in prelims. Lange, who had been under the weather for sections, was on fire and Gebauer smoked his previous best anchor leg split and finished under the 22 second mark. Nordby believed it could’ve been the fastest freestyle relay split by any Wildcat swimmer. 
 
The quartet finished in sixth place in the prelims with a school-record time of 1:40.60, less than a half a second away from fourth place. Richfield took the top prelim spot with a 1:37.12.
 
In the finals, the boys seemed just a bit tuckered out and they finished in seventh place with a time of 1:41.31. Grand Rapids swam nearly an identical time to their prelims, and that left CL down a peg in the seventh spot.
 
“We weren’t quite as fast as the first day,  but to think that this relay did not even qualify last year and now they are All-State, that’s pretty neat,” Nordby said. 
Breck/Blake won the event with a Class A record of 1:34.823.
 
Engel also competed in the 200 individual medley and although the senior didn’t qualify for the finals, he did set a school record, finishing the race in 2:07.14 for a 19th place finish. Engel hadn’t even competed in the event up until this year, so to grab the school record was a big accomplishment for the senior in his last race in the event.
Both Falkowski and Lange qualified individually for the state tournament, too.
Lange sneaked into the consolation finals of the 100 butterfly with a 13th place finish and a time of 55.56 seconds, good enough for second all time in Wildcat history.
“David was a machine,” Coach Nordby said. “He had been sick at sections so I was glad he was able to lower his time and really show strong determination.  He took the race out in 25.62 seconds and then muscled his way to the 13th place finish.”
Lange, who is only in his second year of swimming took 15th place in the consolation final after leaving nearly everything he had in the pool on the prelim day. “He used up a lot of energy just making the finals, but what a great accomplishment for David to make the second day of the state tournament,” Nordby said proudly.
 
Falkowski competed in the 100 breaststroke event, but he wasn’t able to qualify for the second day with an historic field around him. There was a mind-boggling 37 participants in the event. “This was the fastest breaststroke field in state history,” Nordby said. “The Class A times were even faster than the Class AA times.”
Falkowski finished in 29th in the prelim, but as a sophomore, he’ll get more cracks at the tourney and at the elusive sub-one minute time.
 
Avery Turman participated in the 200 freestyle and had a tough opener. He was trying a different strategy for the meet, and it didn’t quite work out the way he planned. He came up with a 22nd place finish in a time of 1:53.00. “I know Avery will be under 1:50 next year as he learns how to split that event differently,” Nordby said.
 
Both freestyle relay teams that qualified for the state meet also made it to the second day in impressive fashion.
 
The 200 free foursome of Eric Barnes, Gebauer, Beau Hawkinson and Turman hit a school record 1:31.23 in the event and finished in 13th place in the prelims. 
In the finals they nearly matched their day old school record, finishing the race in 1:31.46 and staying in the 13th place slot.
“These guys have been pushing that record time lower and lower all year,” Nordby said.
In the 400 freestyle relay, Engel, Turman, Hawkinson and Barnes teamed up for a 3:25.04. They were able to advance to the second day by finishing in 14th place, but Nordby had expected a little more. “It was a bit of a surprise not being faster here as the other two relays had been,” he said. “They advanced to second day so that was one of the goals but being faster is what I was hoping for.”
 
In the finals, Nordby made a surprise decision, switching Barnes out for Gebauer in the relay team. Each relay team has four alternates that come to the state meet also.
 
“I decided to shake things up a bit and switch the lineup around,” he explained. “We were in a bit of a funk with the relay and hadn’t dropped time from prelims so I substituted Mitch into the second position and then switched the other three guys around. Hawkinson and Gebauer ended up having personal best splits and the quartet tied the section school record time with a 3:24.10 to finish in 14th place.
As a team, the Wildcats ended up finishing in 16th place with 52 points. Class A powerhouse St. Thomas Academy finished in first place with 330 points. Second place Monticello finished with 204 points.
 
“Our second day was good but it seemed we just couldn’t quite catch the fire that we had the first day,” Nordby said after the meet. “It felt like we were a bit sluggish mentally which doesn’t translate to fast times.  A few guys had lifetime bests in the relays, which is what we’re always shooting for, though.
 
“Overall this was a very good state meet.  All three relays qualified for the second day and we got a couple podium finishes. While we’re always looking to move up, we should be pretty proud of how far we’ve come since last year especially in a year in which the times were blistering fast,” Coach Nordby concluded.

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