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Alexandria swimming: Aaseng poised for one last swim

Alexandria's Kris Aaseng knows the kind of uphill climb he has in front of him if he's going to win a 500-freestyle state title on Saturday.

The senior enters the Class A prelims today as the second seed in the race, but even that is a bit deceiving. Red Wing's Tanner Alms (4:47.81) has Aaseng (4:48.50) by less than a second in seed times. But not even Aaseng questions who is the man to beat entering the race at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

"Tanner Alms is the state record holder," he said. "Right now, I'd be more than happy with second or third place. I got fourth place last year, so anything that's an improvement on that would be good for me."

Seed times can be deceiving because swimmers like Alms and Aaseng know they can coast to state qualifying times with no one to push them in their section. That's the case with Alms, who comes into the day looking to win a third straight state title in the 500.

"His seed time is 4:47 or something like that, but his state record time is 4:34," Alexandria head coach Mark Storhaug said. "His focus is going to be on the state meet. He's probably keying his performance at state like we were keying our performances at the section meet."

That doesn't mean Aaseng isn't ready to pounce in the case that Alms has an off day. Aaseng didn't have anyone pushing him at the section meet, either. He still had enough self-motivation to set a new Bemidji pool record. That drive has helped him turn himself into one of the best distance swimmers at the Class A level.

Storhaug figures he is set up to finish even faster heading into the state meet. Aaseng has targeted 4:45 as the time he wants to shoot for heading into Saturday's finals. He likely will also make the finals of the 200 freestyle but said his focus will be on finishing in the top three of the 500.

"It's kind of hard to judge how much effort you want to put into each race," Aaseng said. "But I'm going to try harder in the 500 than the 200. I'll try to stay with [Alms] as long as I can. If I can make a move to win, I'm going to take it, but I'm not going to be beat up if I take second."

A top three finish would be a fitting ending to an already strong career for Aaseng. This will be his third straight state appearance. He's already solidified himself as one of the top distance swimmers in program history, and there is no reason to believe he won't add to that with another fast time this weekend.

Storhaug called Aaseng a special talent with a motor that doesn't quit. He's worked hard to perfect his craft over the years. He knows how difficult it will be to dethrone someone like Alms, but if anyone is in position to have a chance, it might be Aaseng.

"We've put him in position to have his personal-best time," Storhaug said. "If Tanner makes a mistake or just doesn't feel it that day, then we're going to be able to take advantage of it and get lucky. [Kris] has worked hard at it. Sometimes, the harder you work, the luckier you get. So we'll see how it goes."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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