Boys Swimming and Diving: Park Rapids state qualifiers seek school records at state
The Panthers will compete in six events at the Class A meet.
PARK RAPIDS – Seniors Isaac Zinniel and Jordan Odor were determined to get one more chance to break school records by qualifying for the state Class A boys swimming and diving meet.
Cameron Runyan, Matt Lichter and Pierce DeBlieck were looking to cap off their senior seasons by helping a relay advance to state.
All five fulfilled their goals as Park Rapids qualified for the state meet in six events during the Section 5A meet at Morris on Feb. 24.
Zinniel was named the Section 5A Swimmer of the Year after winning section titles in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly while Odor qualified in two individual events with a runner-up finish in diving and in the 200 freestyle. Odor was named the Section 5A Diver of the Year. Both also swam on the state-qualifying 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams.
Runyan and Lichter rounded out the 200 freestyle relay that finished second while DeBlieck and Runyan were the other members of the 200 medley relay unit that finished third.
All five will be looking to compete in the state Class A finals at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota on Saturday, March 4. Preliminaries in diving will be held on Thursday (March 2) with the preliminaries in the swimming events set for Friday (March 3).
After easily taking first in both of his individual events during the section preliminaries with a 22.12 in the 50 freestyle and a 55.09 in the 100 butterfly, Zinniel was looking to duplicate those finishes and break school records in both events in the finals.
The Park Rapids senior went even faster in both races in the finals, clocking a 21.50 to break a school record in the 50 freestyle and going 53.38 to move into the No. 2 spot in school history in the 100 butterfly. Both times easily surpassed the state qualifying standards of 22.67 in the 50 freestyle and 55.77 in the 100 butterfly.
Alexandria’s Erik Reineke was a distant second in the 50 freestyle in 22.15 while Alexandria’s Eric Peterson took second in the 100 butterfly in 53.50. Zinniel broke Spencer Fritze’s school record of 22.04 in the 50 freestyle that was set in 2019 and closed in on Jonah Winter’s school record of 53.04 in the 100 butterfly that was set in 2004.
“I thought my chances (of qualifying for state) were pretty good, but I was more worried in the fly,” said Zinniel. “My goal was to get the record in the 50. I knew I could do it. (In the fly), I started in the lead and didn’t give it up. I’m hoping to go faster at state.”
Zinniel, who placed 15th in the 200 individual medley and 20th in the 100 breaststroke at last year’s state meet, will be looking to break two school records and bring home medals in both events in his second straight state appearance.
“It was pretty important to get to state and try to get more records off the board. I switched events because I thought it was my best shot to get top 8 at state,” said Zinniel. “Getting all-state in both events is my goal. I want to win the 50 and get top 8 in the fly and break the fly record.”
Odor meets goal
After competing at state in four events last season, Odor set out to duplicate that feat this season.
“I didn’t expect to make it in all four events last year. It was really important to make it in all four this year,” said Odor. “I felt pretty good about my chances of going in all four. I worked hard for it all year.”
The Park Rapids senior accomplished that goal by advancing in his two individual events.
Odor, who failed to advance to the second round in diving by placing 24th in his state debut last season, earned a return trip to state with a runner-up 357.15 points in his final section meet. Alexandria’s Kyler Kavanagh took first with 433.85 points.
Odor then qualified in another individual event by following a runner-up 1:52.73 during the prelims of the 200 freestyle with a runner-up 1:49.75 in the finals. That time easily met the qualifying standard of 1:50.93. Alexandria’s Cooper Running won the section title in 1:48.11.
“I decided to switch from the 100 back to the 200 free because I thought I could swim faster in the 200,” said Odor, who placed 14th in the 100 backstroke at last year’s state meet. “I showed a lot of improvement in the 200.”
Odor will also be looking to make the state finals in both individual events and go for the school record in the 200 freestyle.
“I’m going for the record (in the 200 freestyle),” said Odor, who moved up to the No. 3 spot in school history behind Marcus Benson’s 1:48.31 set in 2020 and Matthew Benson’s 1:49.35 clocked in 2016. “I’m going to do the best I can. I’m going to swim hard and wherever I end up will be OK.”
As the three members back from last year’s 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams that qualified for state, Odor, Zinniel and Runyan were confident the Panthers would return to state in those two relays this season.
Those three led the way as Park Rapids successfully sent both relays back to state.
The 200 medley relay team had plenty of confidence after clocking a runner-up 1:43.55 during preliminaries to meet the state cut time of 1:44.23 and trail only the 1:43.32 of Melrose/Sauk Centre. Alexandria was third in 1:44.00.
In the finals, the Panthers dropped to third place despite dropping time with a 1:42.85 as Odor opened with a 25.93 split in the backstroke, DeBlieck clocked a 30.51 split in the breaststroke, Zinniel went 23.49 in the butterfly and Runyan anchored with a 22.92 in the freestyle. Melrose/Sauk Centre won the section title in 1:41.19 with Alexandria moving up to second with a 1:41.71.
“It’s pretty awesome (to make it to state). I worked hard all season for it,” said DeBlieck. “I felt pretty good about our chances. We were ready to go. After taking second (in prelims), I knew we could drop more time.”
The same was the case in the 200 freestyle relay as the Panthers clocked a winning time of 1:33.22 as Fergus Falls and Alexandria tied for second at 1:35.04. In the finals, Alexandria won the section title in 1:31.27 as Park Rapids took second with a 1:32.40 behind splits of 22.96 by Odor, 23.05 by Runyan, 25.23 by Lichter and 21.16 by Zinniel.
“It was a pretty big goal of mine (to get to state). I didn’t go last year, so I wanted to end my senior season on a high note,” said Lichter. “I thought our chances were pretty good. Our times were right up there all season and I knew we could go faster.”
“I really wanted to make it for a third year,” said Runyan, who qualified for state in diving as a freshman and a junior while swimming on both relays last season. “I thought our chances were pretty high in both relays. After prelims, I figured our chances were really high.”
“I thought we had a good chance to win both, but we came up a little short,” said Zinniel. “I thought we did great in both. We dropped a lot of time.”
The Panthers failed to advance to the finals in both relays at last year’s state meet by placing 23rd in the 200 medley in 1:46.30 and taking 20th in the 200 freestyle in 1:33.15. Both relays are confident of reaching the finals after entering this year’s state meet with faster times, but will have some work to do to challenge breaking the school records of 1:38.13 in the 200 medley and 1:29.80 in the 200 freestyle.
“I’m hoping we can beat our time,” said DeBlieck. “Getting to Day 2 would be great.”
“I’m hoping we can swim the second day,” said Litcher. “I think we have a pretty good chance if we all swim fast.”
“It’s going to be tight,” said Zinniel. “It’s going to come down to starts and turns.”
“I think we have a really good chance to come back the second day,” said Runyan. “Our times are much faster than last year. I want to at least make it to the second day in at least one event.”
“Nothing is guaranteed, but I feel pretty good about our chances (of advancing to the finals in both),” said Odor. “It’s going to take hard work and discipline and we have to go in with a positive mindset and attitude. I feel pretty good about it.”