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Swimmers cap off undefeated season with win over Bemidji

Zach Behrens clocked a 2:11.34 to win the 200-yard individual medley in helping the Park Rapids boys swimming and diving team cap off an undefeated season in dual meets with a 108-78 victory over Bemidji Thursday night at the Area High School pool. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

A year ago, the Park Rapids boys swimming and diving team went undefeated in dual meets for the first time in school history.

On Thursday night at the Area High School pool, the Panthers used a record-setting performance in the 400-yard freestyle relay to put the finishing touches on their second consecutive perfect season in head-to-head contests with a 108-78 victory over Bemidji.

"One of our goals was to have back-to-back undefeated seasons. We're a totally different team than last year, but I thought we had a shot at it," said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze. "The hardest part wasn't doing it the first time. The hardest part was doing it again. Everybody had to work hard for this. All their hard work is paying off."

The Panthers made duplicating last year's undefeated record in dual meets look easy by winning 11 of the 12 events. Highlighting that team effort and capping off the perfect season were Matthew Benson, Zach Behrens, Marcus Benson and Spencer Fritze, who teamed up for a winning time of 3:27.72 in the 400 freestyle relay. That time in the final event set a pool record, breaking the previous mark of 3:28.19 clocked by Melrose/Sauk Centre in 2015.

"I put our splits together and I thought we had a shot at it," said Fritze. "I thought if everyone swam well we could get it and they all swam well."

The Panthers swam well all night, beginning with a winning time of 1:50.95 by Marcus Benson, Seth Breitweser, Zach Fritze and Thomas Williams in the 200 medley relay. Isaac Zinniel, Dan Walsh, Sam Huot and Elliott Nichols took third in 2:09.60 as Park Rapids jumped out to a 10-4 lead.

The Panthers would continue to build on that margin the rest of the meet.

Matthew Benson won the 200 freestyle in 1:55.25 before Behrens (with a 2:11.34) and Williams (with a 2:24.29) went 1-2 in the 200 individual medley. Spencer Fritze followed a winning time of 23.59 in the 50 freestyle with a winning total of 251.30 points in diving to give the Panthers a 47-31 advantage after five events.

Behrens led the way in the 100 butterfly with a 57.77 and Huot took third in 1:06.42 before Matthew Benson's 51.36 and Walsh's 1:01.40 led to a 1-3 showing in the 100 freestyle. Williams followed with a runner-up 5:40.41 in the 500 freestyle as the Panthers held a 73-53 lead.

Park Rapids won the 200 freestyle relay as Matthew Benson, Breitweser, Behrens and Spencer Fritze teamed up for a 1:34.30. The Panthers extended their lead to 93-63 with Marcus Benson's winning time of 57.77 and Zach Fritze's runner-up 1:05.43 in the 100 backstroke.

Breitweser took first in the 100 breaststroke with a 1:11.45 before the Panthers ended the dual with their record-setting time in the 400 freestyle relay.

"We always have good meets with Bemidji. It was good to have this meet at this point of the season. I knew we would get some really good races. Bemidji always brings out the best in us," said Fritze, whose team finished the dual season with a 7-0 record. "I've been telling the guys to trust the process and in the last month they've bought into it. The guys were tired, but they swam very well. Now we've got to keep the hammer going."

Park Rapids 108, Bemidji 78

200 medley relay: 1, Park Rapids (Mar. Benson, Breitweser, Z. Fritze, Williams), 1:50.95. 2, Bemidji, 2;00.06. 3, Park Rapids (I. Zinniel, Walsh, Huot, Nichols), 2:09.60.

200 freestyle: 1, Mat. Benson, PR, 1:55.25. 2, Hendricks, B, 1:58.01. 3, Yartz, B 1:58.28. 4, Mar. Benson, PR, 2:00.17. 5, A. Goodwin, B, 2:14.44. 6, Backmann, PR, 2:30.51. JV: J. Zinniel, PR, 2:34.55.

200 individual medley: 1, Behrens, PR, 2:11.34. 2, Williams, PR, 2:24.29. 3, Berglund, B, 2:26.55. 4, Graves, B, 2:32.97. 5, Huot, PR, 2:33.24. JV: I. Zinniel, PR, 2:51.74.

50 freestyle: 1, S. Fritze, PR, 23.59. 2, G. Goodwin, B, 24.17. 3, Z. Fritze, PR, 24.69. 4, Michalicek, B, 26.47. 5, Nichols, PR, 28.36. JV: Graham, PR, 36.22.

Diving: 1, S . Fritze, PR, 251.30 points. 2, Munter, B, 208.85. 3, H. Thorsgard, B, 201.80. 4, Breitweser, PR, 193.10. 5, B. Thorsgard, B, 189.05. 6, Runyan, PR, 119.85.

100 butterfly: 1, Behrens, PR, 57.77. 2, G. Goodwin, B, 1;01.94. 3, Huot, PR, 1:06.42. 4, Graves, B, 1:08.95. 5, Nichols, PR, 1:11.66.

100 freestyle: 1, Mat. Benson, PR, 51.36. 2, Yartz, B, 54.41. 3, Walsh, PR, 1:01.40. 4, Laakso, B, 1:01.72. 5, Michalicek, B, 1:02.19. 6, J. Zinniel, PR, 1:10.17. JV: Odor, PR, 1:09.18.

500 freestyle: 1, Hendricks, B, 5:24.35. 2, Williams, PR, 5:40.41. 3, A. Goodwin, B, 5:57.00. 4, Backmann, PR, 6:48.42. 5, Runyan, PR, 6:58.84.

200 freestyle relay: 1, Park Rapids (Mat. Benson, Breitweser, Behrens, S. Fritze), 1:34.30. 2, Bemidji, 1:41.22. 3, Bemidji, 1:50.98. 4, Park Rapids (Nichols, J. Zinniel, Runyan, Backmann), 1:59.12. JV: Park Rapids (I. Zinniel, Hemenway, Graham, Odor), 2:08.93.

100 backstroke: 1, Mar. Benson, PR, 57.77. 2, Z. Fritze, PR, 1:05.43. 3, Berglund, B, 1:06.10. 4, I. Zinniel, PR, 1:16.39. 5, Vannoy, B, 1:17.46. JV: Graham, PR, 1:33.95.

100 breaststroke: 1, Breitweser, PR, 1:11.45. 2, H. Thorsgard, B, 1:17.50. 3, Forte, B, 1:21.70. 4, Michalicek, B, 1:22.07. 5, Walsh, PR, 1:22.69. 6, Hemenway, PR, 1:23.37.

400 freestyle relay: 1, Park Rapids (Mat. Benson, Behrens, Mar. Benson, S. Fritze), 3:27.72. 2, Bemidji, 3:38.88. 3, Bemidji, 3:59.90. 4, Park Rapids (Williams, Walsh, Huot, Z. Fritze), 4:02.36. JV: Park Rapids Backmann, Odor, Hemenway, J. Zinniel), 4:47.16.