Last year, the Magic swimming and diving team graduated a total of 26 state championship medals. Expectations were lowered a bit to start a new season.
Surprisingly, Monticello responded with just one loss in a dual meet, a second-place finish at True Team sections and an eighth-place finish at True Team state.
During Saturday’s one-day section meet, which was scheduled because of previous-day weather cancellations, the Magic finished second to Sartell and qualified eight swimmers, plus an alternate and a diver for the state meet. And they would’ve liked to have sent more.
Keeping that performance in mind, it’s no wonder Coach Dirk Westveer said his expectations changed throughout the year.
“I don’t think anyone expected that kind of stuff [to start the year],” Westveer said, sharing his disappointment that a couple of swimmers just missed qualifying for the state meet.
But overall, Saturday was still a good day in what has been a very good season for the Magic.
“I think they really performed well,” said Westveer. “These guys, I think, rode the coattails [of last year’s seniors] a little bit, but now it’s their time to step out there. And they’ve done well.”
While the Magic were unmatched in top-end talent and experience the last couple years, this team counters with youth and depth.
That was evident in the relay teams at the section meet, where Monticello again qualified three relays for the state meet.
Qualifying those for state is always one of the biggest goals, according to senior Lawrence Krause.
“You’re with your teammates, you can encourage each other,” he said. “It’s more of a team feeling, it’s fun. It’s nice that we got three again.”
The Magic got things started at the section meet with a strong performance by their 200 medley relay team. Roy Popp, Garret Lenzen, Dylan Remsik and Michael Carriveau teamed up for a 1:44.11, finishing in third at the section meet and coming in under the state cut time, to earn their spot at the Class A State Meet.
Later on, the two free relays both qualified for state as well.
Monticello finished fourth in the 200 free relay, but their time (1:32.55) was under the state cut, earning them an automatic qualification. Connor Hangsleben, Krause, Logan Cordell and Blaise Nyberg swam that relay, with Nyberg’s finishing leg (21.83) pushing Monticello under the cut time. He swam the fastest 50 yards of any swimmer participating in that relay.
“That could bode well for him down the line,” said Westveer, with an eye on Nyberg’s individual state events.
Hangsleben, Krause and Nyberg teamed up again, with Carriveau joining, to finish third place in the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:24.42, earning Monticello another state qualification.
Westveer expects the two freestyle relays to be a couple of Monticello’s top entries at the state meet.
“I’d like to see them get in the medals,” he said.
Individually, Monticello picked up most of their qualifications early in the meet.
In the first individual event, the 200-yard freestyle, Hangsleben led most of the way en route to a second-place finish and state qualification with a time of 1:51.02.
In the 200 individual medley, Krause finished fifth but touched the wile in a time of 2:06.85, fast enough to earn him in automatic bid to the state meet.
Monticello’s success continued into the fourth event, where Nyberg swam a 22.52 in the 50 free finishing in third place and under state cut time. Nyberg would also pick up a qualification in the 100-yard freestyle race, where he finished third with a time of 50.57.
The biggest surprise of the night for the Magic came in the eighth event, the 500-yard freestyle. It was there that Cordell, just an eighth-grader, cut a whopping 15 seconds off his seed time, dropping from a 5:24 to a 5:09.30, coming in almost two full seconds under the state cut time.
“He’s got a lot of heart,” said Westveer. “It’s impressive to see a young kid like that go out there with no fear and attack his race. That’s how you have to do things to be really successful, you just have to go get it. And he did.”
The following individual event, the 100-yard backstroke, was one of the few disappointing events for the Magic.
Three Monticello swimmers finished just out of state qualification, going fifth, sixth and seventh and missing the cut time by less than half a second each.
“[It’s] disappointing to have some of those guys not make it,” said Westveer. “I feel bad for older kids not making it.”
Not that the Magic have a lot of older kids. Krause is one of few seniors on the squad, and he is headed to state in three different events. Otherwise, everyone Monticello is sending ranges from eighth to eleventh grade, including diver Logan Bican, a sophomore.
Bican had one of the more exciting, or, nerve wracking qualifications to the state tournament. The sophomore used good, early dives to put himself solidly in the third spot going into his last dive. But a less than perfect dive, and a scoreboard that wouldn’t show the final standings, created a bit of drama.
“We didn’t know where he was at,” said Westveer. “Scores went up, then boom, they cleared the whole board. We were like, where did he finish?”
Scores finally came back and it was revealed that Bican, with 310.25 points, finished third and qualified for the state meet.
“It was kind of suspenseful,” said Bican, who added that he is really happy to be making his first state appearance. “I was really hoping I made it, but I wasn’t too sure.”
Those 5 minutes sort of summed up the season for this Magic team. A team that entered with aspirations of making it, but not sure how far they could go without the stars of last year. And here they are, with another second-place section finish under their belts, and ten guys headed down to this weekend’s state meet.
“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Krause. “But, I think we all tried as hard as we could, and, we accomplished something incredible for a team so young.”
The Magic will look to finish the season on a high note this weekend. The state meet begins Thursday with diving preliminaries. Class A is scheduled to begin at noon. Class A swimming preliminaries will take place Friday, also beginning at noon. Class A swimming and diving finals are scheduled for Saturday at noon. All state swimming and diving events will take place at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com