By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Suggested headline: Cougars, Scarlets primed for state swim meet
By Jim Rueda
Longtime Mankato East/Loyola boys swim coach Tim Johnson admits he wasn’t ecstatic after watching his swimmers compete in the preliminary round of the Section 1A Meet last Thursday.
Saturday’s final round turned out to be significantly better.
“I thought we were a little off on Thursday,” he said. “We didn’t see the pop in the kids that we wanted to (from our taper), but it was there on Saturday. That turned out to be an awesome day for us.”
The Cougars ended up qualifying for state in five events, led by senior Bobby Schultze. Schultze made it in the 200-yard individual medley (2nd in section, 2:03.19) and the 100-butterfly (2nd, 53.99).
He also qualified in two relay events. He joined with Jack Adams, Sam Rykhus and Corey Kriesel to place third in the 200-free relay (1:31.52) and combined with Adams, Brett Petersen and Kriesel to take fourth in the 400-free relay (3:22.63).
East/Loyola’s only other qualifier was junior Nathan Dreyer, He recorded a state-cut time of 1:04.04 in the 100-breaststroke where he placed fifth.
Johnson said he expected Schultze and Adams and Kriesel to swim well in the section meet but was pleasantly surprised by what we got out of Brett (Petersen) and Nathan Dreyer.
“We weren’t sure what Brett would bring to the table this year,” Johnson said. “He swam with us as a freshman but then didn’t come out as a sophomore and a junior.
“He got better for us as the season went on. He got under a :51 for us (in his leg of the 400-free) and that’s pretty good for a guy who hasn’t been swimming the last two years.”
Dreyer also came through for the Cougars. He swam a 1:07 in the breaststroke last year and had been up around 1:08 or 1:09 this season. Then his taper took hold at the section meet and he dropped down to a 1:04 to qualify.
Johnson said the goal, as always, is to get as many swimmers into Saturday’s final round of the state meet as possible. Schultze has a good chance to reach the top eight in his two individual events as he is seeded fourth in the IM and sixth in the fly.
The two relays have an outside chance at top eight finishes if they swim well in Friday’s prelims. Right now both teams are seeded 11th. Dreyer goes in with 17th-fastest time in the breaststroke.
Mankato West will be led at the state meet by the Bjork brothers. Noah Bjork placed third in diving on Saturday and, traditionally, Section 1A divers do well at state.
“Noah did a lot to get better this year,” West head coach Andy Viker said. “He did a lot more offseason training than he has ever done before and he’s increased the difficulty in his dives.
“On Saturday he hit the board while warming up and cut himself pretty badly. But he held it together and managed to qualify. He should be fine for state.”
Noah Bjork is looking to improve on his 11th-place state finish from last year.
His brother, Jake, has qualified in two individual events — the 200-freestyle (6th, 1:50.69) and the 500-freestyle (6th, 5:06.02). He enters state seeded 14th in the 500 and 18th in the 200.
“We think Jake’s times will get better at state,” Viker said. “On Saturday he had no break after the 500 and immediately had to jump in and do the 200. He’ll get more of a break at state.”
The Scarlets’ only other individual qualifier was sophomore Tanner Sonnek in the 100-breaststroke. He placed sixth with a state-cut time of 1:04.33 at sections. He has the 20th-fastest time going into state.
West also advanced one relay to state. Kyle Wolke, Sonnek, Hayden Ziegler and Ben Rorem combined for a state-cut time of 1:44.44 to place third at sections in the 200-medley relay.
“We have no seniors on that relay and we’re going to keep it intact for state,” Viker said. “Kyle has been coming on for us and we put him on that relay starting with the Big Nine meet.
“We moved Ben up to the A-1 relay after he swam so well in Thursday’s prelims. It was close but we just felt he had a little more giddy-up than Ty (Kolb) did and we made the switch.”
West’s 200-medley team is seeded 14th at state.