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Boys Swimming: Success is on the way

Red Wing junior Tanner Alms practices his freestyle stroke Monday during practice at Twin Bluff Middle School. Alms returns as back-to-back Class 1A state champion in the 500-yard freestyle. Photo by Chris Harrell

A new coach is taking over for Red Wing, but the Wingers hope to find similar results.

Last season, Red Wing made the Class 1A state swimming and diving championship and came in seventh place with 113 points.

"Seventh or better like they did at state last year, we're hoping to maintain that," first-year boys head coach Kevin O'Brien said.

"We want to get as far as we can as a team, get as many people as far as we can," senior captain Adam Sienczak added.

O'Brien is also the head coach for the Red Wing girls swimming and diving team and he's excited to get to coach a competitive boys team.

"It'll be fun for me because I'll be able to connect better with the guys' team. I'm looking forward to that," he said.

The Wingers will be led by senior captains Sienczak, Ted Toegel and Josh Berg. Sienczak competed in the 100-yard freestyle and the 200 freestyle at state last year. Sienczak said he wants to break 50 seconds in the 100 freestyle, and Berg said he hopes to make state in the 500 freestyle.

"Continue to get better and drop more time," said Berg.

Those three seniors are helping bridge the gap between a successful team and a new coach.

"We can provide leadership because last year was just the three of us," Berg said. "We have great unity."

"We knew what we were getting into," Sienczak said.

Senior Ricky Turcotte will join the team after competing in grade school and O'Brien said his size -- Turcotte was a safety and quarterback for the football team -- could help make him a good at the butterfly.

"It's been a long time but he's a really big, strong guy," O'Brien said. "Hopefully we can use him as a flyer this year."

And the biggest returner is Tanner Alms, beginning his junior season with Red Wing after repeating as Class 1A state champion in the 500-yard freestyle. He also finished ninth in the 200 freestyle.

Despite his success, Alms spent the summer struggling to find motivation. The addition of a coaching change made Alms nervous, he said, but the opening days of the season brought back his competitive nature.

"Now that the season started, I feel a lot more excited for competition," he said. "I like Kevin's coaching system so far."

And Alms will need that mindset to face some tough opponents in the 500 freestyle. Alberto Orejuela, a junior at Fridley, returns this year after finishing one spot behind Alms at state. The top six swimmers from the championship final are back.

"There's added pressure," Alms said of repeating as champion a third time.

O'Brien said he isn't worried because Alms has a solid work ethic.

"That really takes care of most of it, the face that he is so internally motivated," he said. "Just get him yards in his specialty; he'll take care of the rest."

Fellow Red Wing junior Ethan Myers also returns to the Wingers after taking 10th place in the 500 freestyle at state last year.

Red Wing brings back plenty of talent but for the Wingers to put forth similar performances, work is left to do, O'Brien said.

"We're solid in the freestyle but we need a lot of work on the other strokes," he said. "I think a lot of these guys are really motivated, so I don't think we'll have any trouble getting them to work on their strokes."

The Wingers start the season Thursday at the Missota Conference relay meet in Farmington.

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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