More depth should lead to more success for Park Rapids boys swimming team
Todd Fritze won't be looking at wins and losses as a measuring stick to determine the success of the Park Rapids boys swimming team this season.
Instead, the Park Rapids head coach will be looking at how much improvement his team makes from the beginning to the end of the season.
Last season, the Panthers had only 13 swimmers on the varsity roster. That lack of depth resulted in a 0-6 record in dual meets, a third-place finish at the Mid-State Conference meet and a 12th-place finish at the Section 3A meet.
Highlighting the season was Bryce Klasen earning all-state honors by placing fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke at the state Class A meet. Klasen also placed 17th in the 200-yard individual medley at the state meet.
The Panthers will be counting on the 10 returning swimmers to lead the way this season.
Leading the Panthers this winter are senior Jared Storseth; juniors Nick Belfiori, Zach Lohmeier and Kevin Merfeld; sophomores Tyler Booge, Sam Goebel and Ryan McBrady; freshmen Zach Eystad and Ben Kading; and eighth grader Connor Smythe. Those 10 will be counted on to swim a variety of events this season.
Of that group, three competed at last year's section meet. Goebel placed 10th in the 500 freestyle, Storseth placed 11th in the 100 freestyle and 13th in the 50 freestyle, and Merfeld placed 19th in the 500 freestyle and 23rd in the 200 freestyle. Goebel and Merfeld also swam on the 200 freestyle relay team that finished 11th.
In addition, Belfiori, Merfeld and Goebel earned all-conference honorable mention honors. Merfeld finished second in the 500 freestyle and joined Belfiori and Goebel on the runner-up 200 freestyle relay team at the Mid-State Conference meet.
In school history, Storseth ranks No. 7 in the 100 freestyle with a time of 52.12 and Goebel is No. 6 in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:30.74.
Returning among last year's top scorers are Storseth (173.50 points), Goebel (166.50), Merfeld (152.50), McBrady (72), Eystad (69), Lohmeier (59.50), Belfiori (50), Smythe (45), Booge (33.50) and Kading (19.50).
Looking to fill in for last year's three seniors - Klasen, Taylor Ondracek and Kyle McBrady - will be sophomore Brock Fritze; freshmen Josh Johnson, Fred Stinar and Jake Waggoner; eighth graders Spencer Adolphson and Steven Osterman; and seventh graders Matt Konshok and Dillon Schroeder. Fritze competed in swimming as a seventh grader while the other seven are out for swimming for the first time.
"We have some potential, but we need to improve," said Fritze, who will be assisted by Amie Westberg. "We have more depth with 18 swimmers, but seven are out for the first time. We have to put them at a level where they can succeed."
The Panthers will be looking to contend for more all-conference honors and score more points at the section meet. Section 3A increases to 13 teams with the addition of Bemidji.
"We have more depth than last year, so we should be better than last season," said Fritze. "Being average is unacceptable. We have to get it done in practice. We're judging our success this year by the clock. I'm excited about the season. We're always a second-half team and I'm looking for us to peak at the end of the season."