As the four state champion swimmers and their coach, Dirk Westveer, sat around Westveer’s room Monday afternoon, they reflected on this weekend’s state meet. The topic switched to the 400-yard freestyle relay, where the Magic came up .04 seconds short of a Class A state record.
“Yeah, I haven’t slept since the 400 free relay,” said Evan Lahr, one of the relay members, as he let out a sigh.
Silence followed for a couple of seconds. Then the kids erupted in laughter.
Lahr’s sarcasm made it obvious; there were no regrets in this room.
Senior Paul Fair capped an incredible high school career Saturday with two more individual championships at the Class A Swimming and Diving State Championships, while fellow seniors Jack Fair and Lahr, as well as freshman Blaise Nyberg, joined forces with him to capture the 200 and 400 free relays, making it four state championships for three straight years for the Magic program. The individuals also pushed the Magic to a second place team finish, coming in behind powerhouse St. Thomas Academy, and finishing ahead of section rival Breck/Blake.
“We ended it just how we wanted to,” said Jack Fair. “No regrets.”
Team finishes second
Following two days of prelims, one for swimming and one for diving, the seeds shook out to favor Breck/Blake for a second place finish. If things went according to seed, Monticello would again get clipped by Breck/Blake, just as they did at sections.
But things changed.
Race after race Saturday, Monticello moved up from their seeds.
Most of the races that earned second place for the Magic weren’t the championship swims. Those were expected. Instead, the big performances came in the way of moving from 15th to 13th, or squeaking into the championship heat instead of the consolation heat.
It started immediately Saturday. The 200 medley relay, the first event, entered prelims seeded 21st. At prelims they moved up to 15th, sneaking them into the consolation final heat. In the finals, Lawrence Krause, Derrek Teicher, Connor Hangsleben and Blaise Nyberg put together their best finish yet. Their time of of 1:44.23 bumped them up to 13th place, earning them a four-point increase.
Improvements kept coming. Krause moved up to 13th in the 200 IM and to 14th in the 100 back, earning a few extra points Monticello hadn’t counted on.
“I think Lawrence came up big,” said Westveer. “He had a big day.”
He wasn’t the only one. Lahr and Jack Fair each set personal records on the final day as they finished fourth and seventh respectively in both the 50 free and 100 free. Westveer said both events were faster than they’ve ever been. In the 50, Lahr was as fast as anyone. His coaches think if not for one stroke too many before the wall, he could have been a champion.
“The 50 was a little bit of a toss-up,” said Lahr. “With how close it was, you can’t make any mistakes. The little mistake I made cost me.”
But it didn’t cost him, or the team, much. Both swimmers still earned All-State honors and continued to propel the team upward. By earning extra points in the events the Magic were unsure of, they only had to take care of business in their big four events to secure second place and another memorable weekend.
That wouldn’t be a problem.
In just the second race of the day, Monticello earned their first championship. Paul Fair, to no one’s surprise, led wire to wire as he held off Tanner Alms late charge and won the 200-yard freestyle race with a time of 1:40.84.
“I was really stressed before the 200 free,” said Fair, who admitted to losing sleep over this meet. “Tanner Alms always does really well.”
But Fair was too much. And he would be again, shortly thereafter.
In the sixth event of the day, Fair hopped back into the pool for the 100 fly. Fair was actually seeded second after prelims, but in a head-to-head race, Westveer had no doubts that would change.
“Paul does not get beat,” said Westveer.
And sure enough, he didn’t. Fair swam a time of 49.63, earning the win by over half a second, and making him a perfect six for six in individual titles over the last three years.
“Just phenomenal,” said Westveer.
Fair wasn’t done yet. But thanks to his teammates, his biggest challenges were behind him.
In the 200 free relay, Evan Lahr got Monticello out to a lead on the first leg, and it just grew from there. Jack Fair expanded it. Then Nyberg, just a freshman and a late addition to each of the freestyle relays, turned in a fantastic swim. By the time the race got to the anchor leg, the Magic had nearly a two-second lead.
“Evan and I knew the race was over as soon as Paul jumped in,” said Jack Fair.
“I think everyone did,” added Lahr.
Fair finished strong, giving Monticello a time of 1:24.87, which was a full second lower than the previous Class A record (already held by the Magic).
In the 400 free, Monticello had a little more reason to be nervous. Nyberg had less experience at this distance relay, and the Magic weren’t one hundred percent sure what to expect. Again he was handed a lead for the third leg. And again, he erased all doubts.
“He stepped up,” said Jack Fair. “He swam like a senior.”
“So clutch,” added Paul Fair.
Nyberg swam his leg in 48.05, two seconds better than any split he had turned in before. And so once again, the race was over when Fair jumped into the pool. The class’s best swimmer easily held off the Tommies down the stretch as Monticello (3:08.66) put the finishing touches on their fourth title of the meet, their twelfth title of the last three years, and the best finish any of them could have asked for.
“We know we don’t have the depth of the team [to win overall],” said Lahr. “So we’re going to try to beat St. Thomas where we can. And we did.”
Overall Monticello scored 190.5 points, finishing 72.5 points behind St. Thomas Academy and 13.5 points ahead of Breck/Blake. Monticello’s four state championships were a meet high.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]