Boys Swimming: Four Wingers punch state ticket
ROCHESTER – Four Red Wing swimmers – Ian Johnson, Ben Schaffer, William Meacham and Jayden Jech – punched their ticket to state right away in the Section 1A championship Saturday as a part of the 200-yard medley relay.
And for Meacham and Schaffer, state will be another chance to add another medal to their collections.
In the section championship at the Rochester Rec Center, the Wingers placed seventh out of 10 teams with a score of 180. Northfield was the section champion with a score of 358.
The state boys' swimming and diving championship meet will begin with prelims on Thursday and finals on Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis.
The team's first state berth came right away, with Johnson, Schaffer, Meacham and Jech putting together their strongest effort of the season, hitting the wall at 1 minute, 40.53 seconds for a fourth-place finish.
“I definitely thought it was a good race for all of us,” said Jech, who swims the freestyle portion of the medley relay. “We did get our personal best and everyone around us was within less than a second. A couple of extra kicks from us could have changed it, but I'm still very proud with our best time and a state qualifying time.”
Said Johnson, who has backstroke duties on the medley relay, “It's good to see that dropped time. Now we just have to drop more at state.”
Seven teams from the section qualified for state, with Winona winning the section title in 1:39.64. The Wingers were the top seed after prelims, and they aren't discouraged considering the difference between them and the Winhawks is .89 seconds. Red Wing enters the state championship as the eighth seed, with Orono as the top team at 1:35.42.
Then in the 200 medley relay on Saturday, Meacham and Schaffer went from teammates to competitors as the two were both vying for state berths with Schaffer in lane 2 and Meacham in lane 3.
“That was pretty fun. I like seeing Ben whenever I swim,” Meacham said. “I'm used to that, whatever meet we're at, I'm usually by his side.”
Schaffer added, “I know Willie's pace and where I should be keeping up with him.”
Meacham went on to secure a state spot with a third-place time of 2:04.73, beating the state standard of 2:07.33. Schaffer just missed the state cut with a sixth-place time of 2:08.23.
“I can't really sprint out on the fly (the first leg of the medley relay) because I won't have anything left for anything else. I just have to keep my pace so I don't get way too ahead of everyone,” said Meacham, who enters the state meet as the 15th seed. “Otherwise, everyone else will come back and get me because I'm not the best at breaststroke.”
What Meacham is one of the best at in Class 1A is the 100 butterfly. And at Saturday's section championship, Meacham reached state with a second-place time of 51.64. He will be the No. 2 seed at state, behind Section 1A champion and last year's defending butterfly champion, Paul Sadergaski of Faribault who swam an All-American consideration time of 50.05, setting a new section record. Going to state for the third time, Meacham finished seventh in state last year at 52.58.
And while Schaffer wasn't able to repeat as the section champion in the 100 breaststroke, he qualified for state for the third straight time with a third-place time of 1:02.71.
“I just got to give it my all. I just want the state cut,” Schaffer said before the breaststroke. “I'll be fully healthy next week so I'll be shooting for my very best. I'll take it out as fast as I can and give it my all in the final 50.”
Hoping to make championship finals for the first time, Schaffer will be seeded 14th at state. Last year as a junior, Schaffer took ninth in 1:01.15.
In other championship finals at sections, the Wingers' 200 freestyle relay of Jonas Hart, Konner Brickey, Patrick Beech and Nicholas Nordenskjold placed eighth in 1:37.06. The 400 freestyle relay of Jech, Brickey, Schaffer and Meacham placed seventh in 3:25.14, just missing the state cut by .88 seconds.