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Connor Smythe (fron left), Sam Goebel, Jake Waggoner and Zach Eystad focused before the start of the 200-yard freestyle relay during preliminaries of the state Class A boys swimming meet Friday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

Panthers' Smythe advances to finals

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Panthers' Smythe advances to finals
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Park Rapids' Connor Smythe, Jake Waggoner, Ryan McBrady, Sam Goebel and Zach Eystad entered the state Class A boys swimming meet hoping to break school records and advance to the finals.

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Smythe did fulfill those goals by breaking his own school record and advancing to the finals in the 100-yard breaststroke at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

Smythe, a sophomore, ended up placing 16th during Saturday's finals with a time of 57.47. The top-16 finishers from Friday's preliminaries earned spots in the finals. That showing gave the Panthers 1 point to share 34th place in the team standings. St. Thomas Academy won the state title with 330 points.

Those five swimmers qualified for state in four events. In addition to Smythe, Waggoner (a junior) advanced in the 500 freestyle; Goebel (a senior), Smythe, Waggoner and Eystad (a junior) qualified in the 200 freestyle relay; and McBrady (a senior) qualified in the 100 breaststroke.

During Friday's preliminaries, Waggoner finished 20th in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:13.58. Fridley's Alberto Orejuel had the fastest qualifying time of 4:50.07 while Faribault's Dakota Viniski claimed the final spot in the finals with a 5:10.23. Red Wing's Tanner Alms ended up winning the state title in 4:41.10. Waggoner was seeded 19th out of 22 qualifiers.

In the 200 freestyle relay, the Panthers entered the state meet seeded 17th out of 21 qualifiers. During Friday's preliminaries, Goebel (with a split of 23.65), Smythe (23.02), Waggoner (23.79) and Eystad (22.72) clocked a 1:33.18 for 19th place. St. Thomas Academy had the fastest time on Friday with a 1:27.19 while Montevideo claimed the final spot in the finals with a 1:31.70. Monticello ended up setting a state record by winning the 200 freestyle relay with a 1:26.11, breaking Red Wing's 1999 record of 1:26.41.

Smythe delivered during the preliminaries of the 100 backstroke by placing 16th in 57.77. Breck/Blake's Mitchell Foster had the fastest time of 50.84. Smythe entered the state meet seeded 17th out of 21 qualifiers.

McBrady was also looking to advance to the finals in the 100 breaststroke, but settled for 35th place with a 1:05.08. McBrady was seeded 31st out of 37 qualifiers. Detroit Lakes' Quillan Oak had the fastest preliminary time of 57.67 while Breck/Blake's Bob Blease claimed the final spot in the finals with a 1:02.35. Oak captured the state title with a 56.73.

During Saturday's finals, Smythe stayed in 16th place with a 57.47, which broke his school record of 57.72 set at the Section 8A meet. Foster won the state title in 49.34, which broke his state Class A record of 49.35 set last season.

"We want to maintain or go a little faster at state, and we did that," said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze. "The competition down there was pretty stiff. We got one through, but we want more. It was a good experience for them to be down there. I'm proud of the guys."

Waggoner earned his first individual trip to state by claiming runner-up honors at the section meet with a 5:11.72. That time moved Waggoner up to the No. 3 spot in school history behind Eric Potter's 5:06.95 and Jonah Winter's 5:10.13.

Goebel, Smythe, Waggoner and Eystad advanced to state by placing fourth at the section meet in the 200 freestyle relay with a 1:32.80, which broke the school record of 1:34.20 set by Goebel, Nick Belfiori, Smythe and Eystad last season. That foursome qualified for state in the 200 medley relay last season.

Smythe broke Colton Storseth's school record of 58.87 in the 100 backstroke en route to a fifth-place finish at the section meet to earn his first individual trip to state.

McBrady, who also qualified for state as an individual for the first time, met the state-cut time with a 1:04.66 to finish seventh at the section meet in the 100 breaststroke. McBrady moved up to the No. 5 spot in school history behind Bryce Klasen (1:01.96), Jake Sheeran (1:04.21), Jason Malm (1:04.23) and Jake DeBlieck (1:04.24) with his 1:04.30 during preliminaries of the section meet.

Other local teams scoring at the state meet included Fergus Falls (fifth with 152 points), Detroit Lakes (eighth with 91 points) and Melrose/Sauk Centre (1 point).

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