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Klasen qualifies for state meet in two events

Bryce Klasen qualified for state Class A boys swimming meet in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breadstroke at Saturday's Section 3A meet. (Vance Carlson / Enterprise)

If Bryce Klasen needed any incentive entering this year's Section 3A boys swimming meet, all he had to do was remember what happened at last year's Section 3A meet.

A year ago, Klasen clocked a 1:04.84 during preliminaries before clocking a 1:05.78 in the finals for sixth place in the 100-yard breaststroke. The cut time to qualify for the state Class A meet was a 1:05.70.

Klasen, who qualified for state in the 100 breaststroke as a sophomore before just missing a return trip as a junior, was determined not to let that happen again this year.

"Last year I was under the cut time (in preliminaries), but I was .08 off the cut time in the finals. I was a little nervous that might happen again," said Klasen. "I was under the cut time all season, so that made it easier. I was pretty confident I could make it."

Not only did Klasen qualify for state in the 100 breaststroke by easily topping the state cut time and the school record, the Park Rapids senior qualified for state in the 200 individual medley as well.

"Bryce was pretty focused going in," said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze. "I thought he would go in both. He did everything he needed to do before the section meet to get where he wanted to be."

During Friday's Section 3A preliminaries at Hutchinson, Klasen qualified for the consolation finals of the 200 individual medley by placing ninth in 2:15.53. That was well above the state cut time of 2:10.44.

Klasen regrouped for the 100 breaststroke by finishing second in 1:03.82. That was well below the state cut time of 1:05.68 and broke Jake Sheeran's school record of 1:04.21 set in 2007.

"I wanted to go to state in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke," said Klasen, who will be competing in this third consecutive state meet. "I wanted to get the state cut time in the 200 IM and I wanted to get a 1:02 in the 100 breaststroke. I thought I could do it if I tried my hardest."

Saturday's finals went better than Klasen expected.

Even though Klasen was swimming in the consolation finals, he earned a state berth in the 200 individual medley by dropping his time to a personal-best 2:09.18. That easily was below the state cut time and was the fifth fastest time of the day.

"I felt really good (Saturday)," said Klasen, who finished 12th in the 200 IM at last year's section meet with a 2:17.12. "I was a little nervous about having to drop five seconds, but I was hoping I could do it."

After qualifying in the 200 individual medley, Klasen was confident he could also qualify in the 100 breaststroke.

Klasen easily secured his second state berth by finishing second with a new school record of 1:02.46. That was behind Fergus Falls' Mike Hurley's winning time of 1:01.83 and ahead of Detroit Lakes' Quillan Oak's time of 1:02.65.

"I felt really good after going 1:03 (during preliminaries)," said Klasen. "I was hoping for fourth place. I definitely didn't expect second place. I was really happy with that. My main goal was to get under 1:02, but getting the school record was cool."

"This wasn't Bryce's first section meet. He made it to state as a sophomore and a junior and I expected him to have another good taper," said Fritze. "I just told him to relax and just do your job. That's what he did."

As a sophomore, Klasen swam on the Panthers' medley relay team that finished 18th and clocked a 1:05.92 to finish 16th in the 100 breaststroke. Klasen advanced to state in the 100 breaststroke that year by placing fourth with a 1:04.78 at the Section 4A meet.

Klasen qualified for state last season as a member of the medley relay team that finished 14th with a school-record time. However, he fell short of returning in the 100 breaststroke.

In his third and final trip to state, which begins Friday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Klasen will be looking to improve on his section times and contend for a state medal.

"At state you're looking to stay the same or drop a little time," said Fritze, who has taken swimmers to state every year since 1998. "Bryce is so strong mentally. He should go faster at state. A good goal for Bryce would be to swim the second day in the IM and finish in the top eight in the breaststroke."

"I want to drop time in both," said Klasen, who is seeded third out of 21 qualifiers in the 100 breaststroke and 15th out of 21 qualifiers in the 200 individual medley. "I want to knock at least a second off my IM and half a second off my breaststroke. I want to swim the second day and finish in the top 16 in the IM and I'm shooting for third in the breaststroke."

Panthers shine in finals

The section meet couldn't have started any worse for the Panthers, who entered only six swimmers in nine events.

In the first event of Friday's preliminaries, the Panthers' 200 medley relay team of Kevin Merfeld, Klasen, Sam Goebel and Jared Storseth was disqualified for a quick start.

Devon Ondracek (18th in 2:04.37) and Merfeld (23rd in 2:07.81) missed advancing in the 200 freestyle and Klasen finished ninth in the 200 individual medley.

Storseth clocked a 24.11 for 13th place in the 50 freestyle while Kyle McBrady finished 37th in 27.45.

In the 100 freestyle, Storseth finished 14th in 53.15 while Ondracek was 27th in 56.64.

Goebel advanced in the 500 freestyle with a 13th-place time of 5:38.47 while Merfeld finished 19th in 5:44.13.

Park Rapids' 200 freestyle relay team of Goebel, McBrady, Merfeld and Ondracek placed 12th in 1:47.79.

Klasen met the state cut time while McBrady claimed the final spot in the consolation finals by placing 16th in 1:13.91 in the 100 breaststroke.

Storseth, Goebel, Ondracek and Klasen ended preliminaries by placing eighth in 3:42.69 in the 400 freestyle relay.

During Saturday's finals, the Panthers improved their times and ended up scoring 56 points.

Klasen qualified for state in the 200 individual medley and Storseth dropped his time to 24.01 for 13th place in the 50 freestyle and to 52.12 for 11th place in the 100 freestyle.

Goebel also dropped his time in the 500 freestyle, finishing 10th in 5:30.74, and joined McBrady, Merfeld and Ondracek for an 11th-place time of 1:43.35 in the 200 freestyle relay.

Klasen broke his school record and McBrady dropped his time to a 1:13.56 to finish 16th in the 100 breaststroke.

That proved to be the Panthers' final points as the 400 freestyle relay was disqualified in the finals.

Hutchinson won the section title with 316 points.

"Friday wasn't a bad day, but it wasn't an outstanding day," said Fritze. "Saturday was a good day for us."

Team scores: Hutchinson 316, Fergus Falls 295, Willmar 269, Melrose/Sauk Centre 266, Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield 196, Detroit Lakes 167, Perham 144, Montevideo 142, Rocori 104, Thief River Falls 88, Minnewaska 87, Park Rapids 56.