True Team meets aren’t exactly set up to play to the strength of Monticello’s Swimming and Diving team.
Yet, with a seventh place finish, the Magic pulled off a strong showing at the State True Team Meet Saturday.
“Most of the guys swam very well,” said Coach Dirk Westveer. “Most all of them hit seed times or exceeded them.”
The all-around team effort gave the magic a total of 1,568.5 points, just two more than eighth place Austin, and only 35 less than fourth-place Melrose/Sauk Centre in what was a bunched up middle of the pack. Saint Thomas Academy won the meet going away, scoring 2,520.5 points.
In a meet that requires depth (with 50 plus relay teams and individuals scoring in each event) the Magic stepped up one spot from last year, despite lacking in depth. Especially among the upper classmen.
To put Monticello’s roster in perspective. Elk River is hosting a Junior Elks meet this week for seventh through ninth graders. Monticello will be there. If Westveer wanted to practice for his upperclassmen that day, it would be a quiet pool. There would be just seven kids there.
But, Saturday the Magic didn’t let that bother them. They used strong, sometimes record-breaking, top end performances to go with good showings by all as they earned their improved finish at the University of Minnnesota pool.
Westveer noted that many of the Magic times dropped at the big meet, which is an interesting phenomenon simply because Monticello doesn’t taper for True Team.
Westveer and his swimmers pointed to a couple of reasons for the improvement, such as a wider and deeper pool and the meet being on a Saturday.
But for Paul Fair, there were two additional reasons, one slightly more tangible than the other. First, he said the venue served as a motivator for him and his teammates.
“Everyone wants to do well, because it’s the U [University of Minnesota]” said Fair, who had special pressure on him as his future coach, Dennis Dale of the Gophers, was on hand to watch. Fair also pointed out that the increased competition leads to lowered times, especially for a lot of top-end swimmers.
“I’m racing against faster people,” said Fair. “Like that Tanner Alms kid, I was seeded behind him, so that kind of got me pumped up.”
As Fair traditionally does, he helped pump up to the Magic early. Seeded second in the 200 fly, Fair turned in a True Team State Meet record time of 1:44.59 to beat Alms, from Red Wing, by nearly 3.5 seconds.
From there, Monticello started rolling in a top-ten finisher in nearly every event. In the 200 IM, Lawrence Krause turned in a tenth place finish, earning 43 points for the Magic. In the 50 yard freestyle, Evan Lahr sprinted to a 22.16 and a second-place finish. Teammate Jack Fair finished sixth.
Logan Bican, only a freshman, earned a 16th-place finish in diving as he tallied 228.85 points.
After the diving break, it was back to the 100 yard fly, otherwise known as the Paul Fair show, Act 2.
Fair cruised out nearly two seconds faster than his closest competitor on the down stretch, and as they came back he pulled away even farther. His time of 52.05 won the race by three and a half seconds, and knocked nearly three quarters of a second off the previous True Team State Meet record time. After setting the 50 and 100 yard free records last year, Fair now has ownership of four individual records and one relay at the meet.
Westveer understated the accomplishment, as “pretty impressive.” But for Fair, it seems to be just a matter of checking another goal off the list.
“It’s nice to set a goal for that meet,” he said. “Like ‘oh I wanna break that record.’ But now that it’s over with, I don’t think about it too much.”
After the record setting race, Lahr and Fair’s twin brother, Jack, kept the positive momentum going. They finished fourth and seventh respectively in the 100 yard free, earning 95 points for the Magic.
In the 500 free, Blaise Nyberg and teammate Connor Hangsleben came in back-to-back for a 15th and 16th place finish. That set the stage for the stretch run of the event.
It started with the 200 yard free, perhaps Monticello’s strongest relay team. Lahr and Jack Fair helped push Monticello out to an early lead, Nyberg maintained it, and Fair brought it home. Their time of 1:28.85 earned Monticello their third event championship, to go along with their meet record of the day,
The tenth event of the day was the 100 yard backstroke. Lawrence Krause turned in a strong showing for Monticello, finishing eighth in a time of 59.61. That was followed immediately by the 100 yard breaststroke, where teammate Derrek Teicher turned in a team best 15th place performance.
Then, well, it’s safe to say a couple teams saved their best for last.
The Magic took second in the 400 yard relay, the final performance of the day. But not before a thrilling finish.
A good race by Lahr, Jack Fair and Hangsleben had Monticello sitting in second place, seconds out of first, when the race got to the anchor, Paul Fair.
Monticello, and everyone else, is used to seeing Fair win. And for a stretch, it looked like he might take down what for many would have been an insurmountable lead. Trailing by nearly two seconds as Fair turned to take on the final 50 meters, the senior lead closed the gap all the way down. But the sophomore swimming for St. Thomas Academy was hardly a slouch. Sam Johanns held his own over the final few meters, and as the two swimmers pulled to the wall at the same time, Fair was out touched, by .02 seconds.
“Literally faster than the blink of an eye,” said Lahr, who along with Fair, admitted he was a bit surprised at the sight.
“Actually, I thought I won it,” said Fair. “Sometimes doesn’t work out.”
More often than not, it actually does for the Magic. And as a whole, Westveer felt like this whole meet worked out quite well. But without a doubt, the last race left them smarting a bit, and more importantly, it left them wanting more.
“We told [St. Thomas Academy] we’ll see them at state,” said Lahr.
First, the Magic must finish out their regular season schedule. They have two meets left, starting with tonight, as they travel to Princeton for a 6 o’clock meet.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com