By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Mankato West swimmer Jake Bjork opted to stay in Mankato and train during the holiday break this year and, after winning three events and finishing second in another on Tuesday, he believes he made a wise choice.
Bjork’s efforts helped the Scarlets earn a 97-83 Big Nine Conference victory over Rochester Mayo at the Minnesota State pool.
“Last year I went on a church trip during break and it set me back conditioning wise,” Bjork said. “This year I stayed around and worked out and I feel a lot better. My times are already faster now than they were last year at this time.”
Bjork was not the only West swimmer who had a good night Tuesday. Head coach Andy Viker said a number of his student athletes turned in personal bests that enabled the Scarlets to pull away in what was supposed to be a close meet.
“We had a lot of guys come through with PR’s tonight,” he said. “We had (Tanner) Sonnek in the IM (2nd, 2:11.78), Hayden Ziegler in the butterfly (3rd, 1:02.49), Jon Fitzloff in the 400-free relay (1st, 53.59 split) and Noah Bjork in diving (1st, 196.10 points).
“It was a just a solid meet all around for us. We tweaked our relays to kind of even them up a little bit, too.”
Jake Bjork saw that as a very positive adjustment: “Those moves in the relays really worked. I’m definitely glad with the way they turned out.”
West ended up first in the 200-medley relay (Tyler Parker, Brad Halbur, Cole Froehlich, Andrew Klanderud, 2:19.48); second in the 200-free relay (Sonnek, Jonas Fu, Ben Rorem, Jake Bjork, 1:34.24) and first in the 400-free relay (Jake Bjork, Fitzloff, Luke Ambrose, Ziegler, 3:36.09).
Jake Bjork’s other two wins came in the 200-freestyle (1:52.71) and the 500-freestyle (5:08.20). Sonnek also won the 100-breaststroke in 1:06.18 but wasn’t particularly thrilled with his performance.
“Yeah, Tanner’s been at 1:07 and 1:05 this year and today he got right in between at 1:06,” Viker said. “He really wants to get under state cut times before he has to. He’s a pretty determined kid so I think he’ll do it.”
This year’s state cut in the breaststroke is 1:04.7.
The Scarlets (2-2 overall and in the Big Nine) are back in action Saturday at the Red Wing Invitational.