Swimmers enter year with usual lofty goals
Even with 13 swimmers missing from last year, Todd Fritze is counting on another successful season from the Park Rapids boys swimming and diving team.
The return of 23 swimmers and divers who competed on varsity and the addition of several promising swimmers should help the Panthers make a run at duplicating last year’s performance of going 4-2 in dual meets, claiming the Mid-State Conference title, finishing second at the Section 5A True Team meet and third at the Section 5A meet, and qualifying swimmers for the state Class A meet.
Graduation left the Panthers without three state qualifiers: Zach Eystad, Ben Kading and Jake Waggoner. Those three qualified for state in the 200-yard freestyle relay by breaking the school record while Waggoner broke the school record in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle and placed at state in both events (13th in the 500 freestyle and 14th in the 200 freestyle). Eystad also qualified for state in the 50 freestyle.
The Panthers do return one state qualifier in senior Connor Smythe. In addition to swimming on the 200 freestyle relay team that qualified for state, Smythe earned all-state honors by placing eighth in the 100 backstroke. Smythe broke his own school record in that event, shared the team’s MVP honor and was second in points with 365.50.
Also being counted on to produce in the pool are the other 22 returning varsity competitors: seniors Kalvin Hagan, Kurt Fritze, Spencer Adolphson, Iain Wallace and Nate Rak; juniors Dillon Schroeder, Tyler Breitweser, Matt Konshok and Andrew Zinke; sophomore Hunter Utke; freshmen Sam Eystad, Tim Walsh, Jack Bateman, Jack Walsh and Steven Wattenhofer; and eighth graders Matthew Benson, Bradley Graham, Zach Behrens, Casmir Simonson, Samuel Huot, Peter Vanbatavia and James Utke.
Of the returning group, eight earned all-conference honors while nine scored points at the section meet.
Smythe was the Mid-State champion in the 100 backstroke and earned all-conference honorable mention honors by placing third in the 200 individual medley. Hagan was the conference champion in diving and earned all-conference honorable mention honors by placing second in the 100 breaststroke. Smythe and Schroeder swam on the runner-up 200 medley relay team and Smythe swam on the runner-up 200 freestyle relay team. Fritze swam on the runner-up 400 freestyle relay team and joined Konshok on the 200 freestyle relay team that placed third. Also taking third were Schroeder in the 500 freestyle and the 400 freestyle relay team of Breitweser, Benson, Schroeder and Adolphson.
At the section meet, Smythe and Schroeder swam on the fifth-place 200 medley relay team while Fritze and Adolphson swam on the fifth-place 400 freestyle relay team. Also placing at the section meet were Benson in the 200 freestyle (16th); Smythe (fourth), Adolphson (13th), Hunter Utke (14th) and Zinke (16th) in the 200 individual medley; Konshok (16th) in the 50 freestyle; Hagan (fourth), Fritze (11th) and Breitweser (12th) in diving; Adolphson in the 100 butterfly (14th); Schroeder (seventh) and Benson (13th) in the 500 freestyle; Breitweser (eighth) and Konshok (10th) in the 100 backstroke; and Hagan (seventh), Schroeder (10th) and Hunter Utke (13th) in the 100 breaststroke. Wallace finished 19th in the 200 freestyle and 20th in the 100 freestyle while Zinke was 23rd in the 100 butterfly.
Joining Smythe with at least 100 points last season were Hagan (284.50), Schroeder (234.50), Fritze (224), Breitweser (203.50), Adolphson (177.50), Hunter Utke (154.50), Konshok (153.50) and Benson (111.50).
Also scoring points last season were Zinke (83), Wallace (52.50), Graham (45), Eystad (39.50), Tim Walsh (37.50), Bateman (35.50), Behrens (28), Jack Walsh (27.50), Simonson (26.50), Huot (14.50), Vanbatavia (7.50), James Utke (6.50) and Wattenhofer (2.50).
Adding depth for the Panthers this season will be senior Calvin Bateman; junior Isaac Overmyer; sophomore Jordan Raidt; freshmen Kaleb Carlson, Ben Garcelon, Per Jorgenson and Wendell Kidd; and seventh graders Seth Breitweser and Spencer Fritze.
“We lost some good swimmers, but our expectations are high,” said Fritze. “Our junior varsity kids will have to step up and fill some varsity spots. We have a lot of potential. I think we’re going to be very competitive.”
If the younger kids step up and fill some key spots, Fritze feels his team can repeat as conference champs and contend for some state berths.
“I don’t judge a successful season by wins and losses. I judge a successful season on if we get a lot faster,” said Fritze. “We’re going to be OK. I’m excited about the season with the potential we have. There are a lot of opportunities for kids who want to take them. If they decide to take advantage of those opportunities, watch out.”