Boy Swim fight for first ever conference title chance

Posted 2/10/21

By Bruce Karnick [email protected] Having a kid in swimming and being part of that family for seven years gives one an interesting perspective. One that too few parents are lucky to get. Why? …

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Boy Swim fight for first ever conference title chance


By Bruce Karnick

[email protected]

Having a kid in swimming and being part of that family for seven years gives one an interesting perspective. One that too few parents are lucky to get. Why? Because it is swimming and not part of the core four sports of Football, Baseball, Hockey and Basketball. There are no professional swimming teams and let’s be real, you rarely even hear about college swimmers until it is getting close to the summer Olympics. Then we all sit around our TV and watch in amazement at how these athletes perform in water.

High school swimmers deserve more attention than that. They deserve packed stands cheering for them during the race. Sound so loud that you can see the water move because of it. But this year due to COVID and a multitude of other reasons in other years, it is parents there for their kids.

This season, the Raiders Boys swim team has performed exceptionally well in the conference, beating long time rival St. Thomas Academy (STA) for the first time ever, but there were no fans in attendance. Two Race officials, three school officials, three coaches, 21 swimmers, six parents as back up timers, and four people from HCTV were on hand to witness a historic moment in Raider swimming. That same number of folks would be in attendance, plus one reporter/ former swim dad, Thursday night as the Raiders took on the Simley Spartans.

As stated in last weeks article in the win over STA, this is likely the meet that will decide the fate of the Metro East Conference Championship. STA, Simley and Hastings are the three teams to beat in a conference that also has Hill-Murray, Mahtomedi, North High, South St. Paul, Tartan and Henry Sibley. With STA losing, that means it should come down to Simley and Hastings and this is a big deal. No, let me take that back, this is a HUUUUUGE DEAL!

As a reporter, these are the stories you pine for. As a former swim dad, this was the kind of met you hope your child gets to be part of, and as a swimming announcer, one you look forward to call, Being all three, there was no way I was going to miss watching this meet.

The air in the pool was electric, the boys on both sides were buzzing, coaches were busy dotting every last i and crossing every t. HCTV was set up, Announcer Scott was ready to roll and it felt like a post season meet.

This is one of those stories I am going to break a bunch of “journalistic rules”. Why? Head Coach Gerry Rupp recapped the meet in an email, and I know well enough to simply get out of the way on this one and let him tell you how it would shake out. Gerry! Take it away.

Wow! What a meet. As expected, Simley rolled into town ready to battle for what was shaping up to be the meet to decide the conference title. Many guys were wearing their Fastskin Tech suits as if this were the State meet, trying to get every inch of advantage over the opponent. The meet truly had a feel of post season championship in the air.

Hastings got off to a great start with a five second time drop in the Medley relay, thanks to the addition of Phil Jensen on the lead-off backstroke leg. A disqualification on Simley helped Hastings to a 10-4 lead.

Simley roared back with an 11-5 win in the 200 free to tie the meet.

Caleb Urban once again overcame a body length deficit to win the 200 IM, dropping four seconds to a lifetime best swim.

The 50 was a huge event for Hastings with Jensen taking first place and John Destross stealing a crucial second place, both with lifetime best times.

Ryan Lester continued his dominance in diving, winning by 10 points.

The 100 fly also saw a huge pick up for Hastings, with Adam Duer and Destross taking first and second, respectively.

Joe Everson once again avenged his loss in the 200 free with a win in the 100 free, posting his best of the season, and Hudson Doty taking fourth to allow an 8-8 split on points. At that point Hastings had an eight-point lead, but it wasn’t going to hold.

Simley came back to take the 500 Free 11-5, despite Urban’s valiant attempt to stay with the top single A 500 freestyler in the state. Urban broke the five-minute mark for the first time in his life.

The 200 Free relay was a shoot-out, with Hastings top sprinters besting Simley’s, recording a season best time.

Jensen posted one of the state’s best times in the 100 back, cruising to an eight second victory.

Liam Shelhamer gave an outstanding effort in the 100 breaststroke, leading by a body length heading into the final turn, but was not able to hold off the surging Simley swimmers and placed second. The top 3 places were decided by a margin of 14 one hundredths of a second.

It all came down to the last relay. If Hastings won the relay, the meet would end in a tie. Fitting for how hard a battle it was all night. Unfortunately, it was not to be, even though Hastings dropped nine seconds from their previous best. Simley dropped 14 seconds, clinching the victory for the Spartans.

Final score was 97-89. Barring a miracle in the Simley v. St. Thomas meet this week, Simley will take their first ever Metro East Conference title, and Hastings will finish second.

Thanks, Coach, for an awesome event by event recap.

With the win, Simley is currently in sole position of first in the conference, but they have yet to face STA. Last week, Coach Rupp explained that STA graduated the majority of their varsity team last year, including all of their diving team. Not having any divers automatically gives your opponent 13 points. A 13-point deficit is very hard to overcome in swimming when teams are very close.

If Simley defeats STA, they will be the conference champions. If STA were to find a way to beat Simley, there will be a three-way tie for the conference championship between Hastings, Simley and STA. The threeway tie is far less likely given how well Simley performed against Hastings, but it is a possibility and there is still a month left in the season!

Hastings does visit Simley again Tuesday the ninth, but it is classified as a non-conference meet, then they do not race again until February 18th, at home vs North St. Paul. They will finish the regular season March 4th at the new Henry Sibley Aquatic Center.

Raider swimmers Charlie Jensen (top) and John Destross (middle) finish behind Simley Swimmer Nico Losinski in the final race of the meet. Simley Head Coach Lynn Newton celebrates the hard fought, come from behind win that gave the Raiders their first loss of the season and may have bumped them out of contention for the Conference Championship.

Photo by Bruce Karnick