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Boys Swimming: Red Wing clinches close victory over Farmington

Red Wing senior Nolan Schmidt races down the stretch of the 100-yard butterfly during Thursday's Missota Conference meet against Farmington at Twin Bluff Middle School. Schmidt took second place with a time of 1 minute, 0.43 seconds. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Red Wing's Hunter Connelly takes part in the 100-yard backstroke Thursday against Farmington in Red Wing. Connelly won the race with a time of 54.68 seconds. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

Red Wing wasn’t going to lose at home.

Right before the final race of the evening – the 400-yard freestyle relay – the Winger boys swimming and diving team held a slim 87-85 lead over Missota Conference rival Farmington.

“At home, we don’t lose,” said Red Wing sophomore Hunter Connelly. “You can’t lose at home.”

The Wingers’ foursome of Garrett Welsch, Connelly, Calvin Roth and Tanner Alms took first place with a time of 3 minutes, 25.38 seconds, but with the Tigers taking second, third and fifth, there was an air of uncertainty for the final results.

“I thought we either tied or lost that one,” Alms said.

Then the final score hit the speakers. The Wingers came out with a 95-91 victory, and Red Wing’s swimmers were celebrating on the deck of the Twin Bluff Middle School pool.

“That was one of the most exciting wins I’ve ever been a part of,” Alms said. “It was so exciting to hear the final score.”

Wingers’ head coach Kevin O’Brien added, “It was a lot of fun. We knew going into this meet that it was going to be very close and every race mattered. Boy, did it. We went after it and pulled it off.”

After a slow start, Connelly and Roth helped close the gap, putting Alms nearly neck-to-neck with Farmington’s top anchor, Daniel Berg.

“What it came down to is I had to watch my breathing, I really had to kick hard, dolphin kick off the wall and push it to the end,” said Connelly, who swam a split of 51.24.

O’Brien added about Roth, who swam a split of 53.03, “He’s got a phenomenal kick. When he wants to go, he can really move. He played a very key role in that 400 relay.”

Then, the three-time state champion took over to win the 400 freestyle relay by nearly three seconds. But, Alms was quick to credit his teammates for putting him in prime position.

“I figured with the motivation of the scoreboard and with everyone around us, I knew they’d either be able to keep with or stay ahead of the other team,” Alms said. “I wasn’t surprised to see them stick with it and give me a good chance to be able to beat them.”

Before it came down to the wire, Red Wing controlled the meet early on as Connelly, Ben Schaffer, Chris Byrne and Dan O’Keefe won the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:45.94. Connelly added a win in the 200 freestyle (1:56.41), and Alms won the 200 individual medley (2:03.02).

“We had to make a last-minute switch due to injury for (Hunter and Tanner),” O’Brien said. “Tanner was going to swim in the 200 free, but Hunter’s knee was bugging him, so we moved him to the 200 free and put Tanner in the medley. We needed those first-place points.

O’Keefe added a pivotal win in the 50 freestyle with a time of 23.87.

“That 50 free was huge,” O’Brien said. “That race is always up in the air, you never know what you’re going to get. And for Dan to win that race was phenomenal.”

Alms dominated the 500 free with a first-place time of 4:53.46, and Connelly tabbed another win in the 100 backstroke at 54.68. The 200 freestyle relay of O’Keefe, Byrne, Welsch and Alms put together another first-place showing in 1:33.50.

After just one meet in December, the Wingers are cramming the bulk of its season over the next four weeks with six meets, ranging from Saturday’s Winger Invitational to a home meet with Simley on Feb. 1.

“Our schedule is completely packed, and the rest of the year is going to be practice-meet, practice-meet,” Connelly said.

“The season is winding down very fast,” O’Brien added. “I don’t think the boys know it quite yet.”

Joe Brown
Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.
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