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Boys Swimming: Wingers beat Austin, prepare for section True Team

Red Wing's Wyatt Hofius swims the second leg of the 200-yard freestyle relay during Thursday's Big Nine Conference dual meet against Austin at Twin Bluff Middle School. The 200 freestyle relay took second in 1 minute, 43.59 seconds. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)

With two wins from Ben Schaffer, a come-from-behind win from Patrick Beech and a pair of relay victories, the Red Wing boys' swimming and diving team managed to secure a 101-85 Big Nine Conference victory over Austin Thursday at Twin Bluff Middle School.

After a grueling practice Wednesday to go with Thursday's victory, the Wingers are hoping momentum is on their side when they're back in the pool this weekend with another trip to True Team state on the line.

“It's going to be harder than last year,” said Schaffer, who had victories in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 10.54 seconds) and the 100 breaststroke (1:07.29). “We graduated a lot of good swimmers, but I think it's definitely possible. We need to go out and swim our butts off. But I know we can do it.”

Focusing Wednesday's practice on 100-yard sets and getting a strong push off the wall, there was some worry that fatigue would hurt Red Wing on Thursday. But the meet started with a Winger victory when the 200 medley relay team of Ian Johnson, Schaffer, William Meacham and Jayden Jech took first place in 1:47.28. Along with Schaffer winning the 200 IM, Meacham was the runner-up at 2:14.89 before getting his own win in the 100 butterfly in 54.08.

Then in the 100 backstroke, Beech was trailing by .97 seconds after the turn to the Packers' Kaleb Blaser. But the Red Wing senior was able to surge through the final 50 yards and hit the board at 1:04.59, beating Blaser's 1:06.12.

“He was down two body lengths and then caught up and ended up winning by a body length,” Schaffer said. “That was probably the highlight of the night for this team.”

And, it happened to be a big payoff for Beech after some extra work over the holiday break.

Red Wing's Patrick Beech won the 100-yard backstroke in 1:04.59.“Patrick has really been working on that backstroke. That was a senior-year goal of his,” O'Brien said. “Hunter Connelly (a freshman at the University of Minnesota) came back over Christmas break and was working with the backstrokers for a while. And he was really working with Patrick on getting that kick going and working on that turnover. That was the first time that's come through like that and that was a great swim for Patrick.”

The 400 freestyle relay of Jech, Jonas Hart, Meacham and Schaffer helped add to the Wingers' cause at the end with a first-place time of 3:34.62.

Four Red Wing swimmers – Johnson (500 freestyle, 5:46.34), Jech (100 freestyle, 53.00), Nick Bayley (100 butterfly, 1:08.05) and Jonas Hart (100 freestyle, 55.70) – were able to set new personal bests on Thursday, adding some encouragement to a group that placed eighth at last year's state True Team meet.

Last year, the Wingers got to True Team as a wild card. And this year, they're expecting much of the same. The Section 1A True Team meet began on Friday with diving and will resume Saturday with the swim events.

“It should be a tight (section) meet,” O'Brien said. “It should be hit and miss depending on what the other sections do and how they perform where they are. We'll have to see how (section True Team meets) pan out. It'll be close.

“We're not quite as deep as we were last year but we're trying to utilize and spread out our talent. For example, instead of having Ben in the 200 IM, he's in the 50 free because he's our fastest swimmer. But we are trying to stack those freestyle spring races because we are stronger in those races than we were last year.”