Breaking records provided incentive

Qualifying for the state Class A meet in five events and breaking three school records highlighted an impressive performance by the Park Rapids boys swimming and diving team at last Saturday's Section 5A meet at Morris.

State qualifiers
Park Rapids' Matthew Benson (from left), Spencer Fritze, Hunter Utke and Casimir Simonson qualified for the state Class A boys swimming and diving meet in five events.

     Qualifying for the state Class A meet in five events and breaking three school records highlighted an impressive performance by the Park Rapids boys swimming and diving team at last Saturday’s Section 5A meet at Morris.

     Sophomore Matthew Benson broke two school records in qualifying for state in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle while freshman Spencer Fritze qualified as an individual in the 50-yard freestyle and diving. Those two joined senior Hunter Utke and sophomore Casimir Simonson on the 200-yard medley relay team that broke the school record and earned a trip to state.

     Those performances were even more impressive at a fast section meet where eight section records were broken.

     All five were looking to advance to the state finals, which conclude today (Saturday) at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.



Medley relay breaks record

     Entering the section meet, Simonson, Fritze, Benson and Utke were looking at breaking the school record in the 200 medley relay to guarantee a trip to state.

     That’s exactly what that foursome did.

     During preliminaries, Simonson’s 27.40 split in the backstroke, Fritze’s 28.27 split in the breaststroke, Benson’s 25.68 split in the butterfly and Utke’s 23.44 split in the freestyle put the Panthers in fifth place with a 1:44.79. That fell short of the school record of 1:44.35, but was below the state cut time of 1:44.87.

     In the finals, the Panthers stayed in fifth place as Simonson’s 27.44, Fritze’s 28.34, Benson’s 24.90 and Utke’s 23.23 led to a 1:43.91 to break the school record set by Colton Storseth, Bryce Klasen, Elliot Lawrence and Jake Sheeran in 2008 and qualify for state.

     “I wasn’t really thinking about it (qualifying for state) until I realized we made the state cut the first day. That was the moment for me that this was doable,” said Simonson. “I thought we could do it. My main goal (in the finals) was for us to cut enough time to get the record and we got it.”

     “After swimming under the state cut with safe starts during prelims, we knew with fast starts we could pull it off and get the record,” said Fritze. “We figured if we could get the record, we’d go to state.”

     “During prelims, we made it (topping the cut time). We just had to do it again the second day,” said Benson. “We wanted to get the record. I expected us to get it.”


     “I was hoping to make it to state. I just wanted to swim my all-time best and go for the school record,” said Utke. “After we took fifth in prelims, I was pretty confident we’d make it to state. Our goal was to get the school record. I was a little nervous, but I swam pretty well and we got the job done.”

     That group was looking to get the job done again and move up from having the No. 18 seed out of 26 qualifiers to advance to the finals.

     “I’m definitely hoping we make it to the second day. That’s my main goal,” said Simonson. “I don’t want to swim only one 50 and go home.”

     “I’m hoping we don’t DQ,” said Fritze. “I think our chances of swimming the second day are pretty good. I think we can do it.”

     “I’m hoping we make it back for the second day,” said Benson.

     “My goal was to get to state and it’s awesome to get there my senior year,” said Utke. “I feel we can go a little faster. I’m hoping we can trim off another second and make it to the finals.”


Benson breaks two records


     After placing third and qualifying for state in the 500 freestyle and finishing fifth in the 200 freestyle at last year’s section meet, Benson was confident of reaching state in both freestyle races this year.

     Breaking the school record in both events in the process was a bonus.

     “I wanted to make it to state in as many events as I could,” said Benson. “I also wanted to break at least two school records.”

     Benson set the tone during the preliminaries by taking second in the 200 freestyle in 1:51.20 and leading the pack in the 500 freestyle in 5:04.77. Benson trailed only Sartell’s Spencer Sathre’s time of 1:46.16 in the 200 freestyle while his time in the 500 freestyle was below the state cut of 5:04.87. Sartell’s Luke Stark was third in 1:51.88 and Melrose/Sauk Centre’s Ben Heller was fourth in 1:52.87 in the 200 freestyle while Sartell’s Jack Saxton was second in the 500 freestyle at 5:10.78.

     In the finals, Sathre broke the section record in the 200 freestyle with a 1:44.68 while Heller moved up to second with a 1:46.95. Benson claimed the final state berth by taking third in 1:49.35 to top the cut time and break Jake Waggoner’s school record of 1:50.26 set in 2013. Alexandria’s Patrick Chromey ended up placing fourth in 1:50.39.

     “I thought my best chance was qualifying by time, but I made it by place and by cut time,” said Benson, who entered with a seed time of 1:56.06. “Taking second during prelims kind of surprised me because I dropped so much time. I was really confident after that. I knew I could fix things up that I didn’t do right the first day.”

     The finals of the 500 freestyle went even better as Benson led the pack with a winning time of 5:00.69, which broke Waggoner’s school record of 5:02.04 set in 2013 and the pool record of 5:00.89 set in 2010. Chromey was second in 5:03.98 and Saxton took third in 5:07.25.

     “I was pretty confident in the 500. I wanted to get the school record the first day. I was close, but I wanted to save some for the second day,” said Benson, who was seeded No. 3 with a time of 5:16.96. “Jake wanted me to break his record. I knew I could do it, but I didn’t expect to break the pool record. It’s a pretty cool accomplishment.


     Benson entered his second state meet as the No. 16 seed out of 22 qualifiers in the 200 freestyle and the No. 14 seed out of 24 qualifiers in the 500 freestyle. Benson placed 29th in the 500 freestyle in 5:07.39 at last year’s state meet.

     “Hopefully I can make it back for the second day,” said Benson. “My biggest goal would be to get a medal.”


Fritze qualifies in two events

     A year ago, Fritze became the first member of the Park Rapids boys swimming and diving team to qualify for state in both a swimming event and in diving.

     Fritze duplicated that feat this year, although with a different combination.

     At last year’s section meet, Fritze was the runner-up in diving and took third in the 100 breaststroke to qualify for state in both events. In his state debut, Fritze finished 10th in diving with 345 points and was 21st in the 100 breaststroke to miss qualifying for the finals.

     Qualifying for state in two individual events proved to be a little tougher for Fritze this season.


     In diving, Fritze was in second place after the first round of five dives with 167.15 points to trail only Detroit Lakes’ Zane Freeman’s score of 186.

     After the second round of three dives, Fritze fell to sixth place with 238.55 points, trailing Freeman (316.40), Bemidji’s Haakan Thorsgard (249.70), Alexandria’s Henri Santelman (246.35), Fergus Falls’ Caleb Neubauer (245.20) and Alexandria’s Jackson Grove (242.90).

     Fritze regrouped during the final round of three dives to secure the fourth and final state berth with 344.70 points. Freeman won the section title with 421.45 points while Neubauer (356.25) and Grove (349.70) followed. Thorsgard finished fifth with 339.40 points and Santelman was sixth with 330.20 points.

     “Going in, I thought my chances were pretty good,” said Fritze, who holds the school record with 429.30 points. “We were battling it out for the 2 through 6 spots. It was pretty close. I messed up a couple dives and I knew I had to hit my last three dives. I’m happy I got fourth place.”

     Fritze also had to battle it out in the 50 freestyle.

     During preliminaries, Fritze finished fourth in 22.75 as Fergus Falls’ Luke Raitz took first in 22.07, Bemidji’s Wyatt Yartz was second in 22.13 and Sartell’s Dylan Plemel was third in 22.45. Sartell’s Tyler Kadlee was fifth in 22.86.

     The bad news for Fritze was only the top-three finishers were guaranteed spots in the state field. The good news for Fritze was he hit the state-qualifying time of 22.75 right on the nose.

     In the finals, the results were similar as Raitz won the section title in 21.36 to break the section record while Yartz (22.03) and Plemel (22.28) finished second and third, respectively. Kadlee ended up placing fourth in 22.56 while Fritze finished fifth in 22.70.


     However, Fritze earned a trip to state by topping the cut time of 22.75.

     “I just wanted to swim fast and that’s what I did,” said Fritze, who had the No. 5 seed time of 23.27. “The section was so fast, I knew I had to go for the state cut instead of placing. During prelims I hit the state cut right on the dot. I thought if I could do it once, I could do it again.”

     Fritze, who entered his second state meet as the No. 24 seed out of 27 qualifiers in the 50 freestyle, was looking to advance to the finals in both events.

     “I’m hoping to drop more time and maybe get the school record (in the 50 freestyle). It’s going to be tough, but if I swim fast maybe I can pull it off,” said Fritze, who ranks fifth in school history behind Jonah Winter (22.07), Josh Winter (22.30), Gerry Schwartz (22.60) and Noah Berglund (22.66). “I’m hoping to get to the finals and get over 400 points (in diving). Hopefully I can medal.”

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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