The Alexandria boys swimming and diving team has crossed off goals on the list all throughout the season and the Cardinals did that again this weekend.
First, it was an undefeated dual-meet record where Alexandria beat the likes of perennially-strong programs in Sartell-St. Stephen, Brainerd and Sauk Rapids-Rice. On Saturday, the Cardinals proved emphatically that they are the deepest team in the conference this winter by winning the Central Lakes Conference championship meet in their home pool. It marks the first time since the 2005-06 season that Alexandria has won a CLC title.
“In the past, we have never really cared about how we did in the CLC conference since it was always held in the middle of our ‘grind’ training,” head coach Kathy Walker said. “The grueling training that takes place a few weeks before the section meet is our last opportunity to really get some great training in before resting for the section and state meets. But then, we looked up at the conference championship banner on the wall in our pool and saw that the last conference title won was in 2006, so we talked to the team and said we wanted to win it for our seniors this year.”
Walker said they looked at seed times coming into the CLC meet and figured they had to make up 35 points in order to beat Sartell. Coaches put together a lineup they believed could do that, and then the athletes delivered.
The Cardinals scored 505 points. Sartell was second at 457 and Brainerd rounded out the top three at 369. Willmar was fifth and was honored with the Sportsmanship Award after the meet.
“There was much anxiety losing training days on Thursday and Friday,” Walker said. “We knew that Brainerd had held school and practices. We knew that other area teams like Sauk Centre-Melrose and Morris had held meets, but there was nothing we could do. So the boys arrived for the meet, focused on winning. There was an incredible effort by each and every one of the guys on the team to win this title.”
The top 16 finishes in the meet are scored, and the Cardinals were all over that leaderboard. They placed two 200-medley relay teams in the top 16, highlighted by Thomas Williams, Jameson Molesworth, Nick Olson and Garrett Maras winning it in 1:40.18.
It was part of eight wins on the day for Alexandria. Patrick Chromey took the 200 freestyle in 1:48.35. Olson (56.09) and Ethan Johnson (57.56) went 1-2 in the 100 butterfly, while Nicolas Welle (48.95) and Chromey (49.00) did the same with 1-2 finishes in the 100 freestyle. Anthony Hoyt then won the 500 freestyle by more than five seconds in 5:02.28.
In the 200 freestyle relay, Maras, Molesworth, Welle and Chromey won in 1:29.96. Williams took the 100 backstroke in 55.73 seconds, and Welle, Williams, Olson and Chromey rounded out the day for the Cardinals by winning the 400 freestyle relay in 3:17.87.
Walker said it was inspiring for the athletes to have one of the better swimmers to come through the program at the pool on Saturday in Alexandria native Erik Esbjornson. After the win, the guys spent the rest of the night together celebrating.
“They are such a close-knit group,” Walker said. “We held our pasta feed after the meet. Rather than going home, the boys stayed and went bowling. They truly are a band of brothers.”
Alexandria will take the momentum of its season and get ready for the Section 5A meet in Sartell. That gets going on Feb. 22 and wraps up on Feb. 23.
Many of the athletes have already hit state-qualifying times this season. The section meet is much about relays and individuals punching those tickets to state, but the Cardinals have another team goal in mind as they head to Sartell.
“We would like to win the section championship trophy and firmly believe that we can bring home some hardware from the state meet,” Walker said. “We have much respect for all of the teams in our section who have been working very hard, as we have all season. We have won meets with our hearts and our training, so we know this can carry us through to the state meet.”
TEAM SCORES - Alexandria - 505; Sartell-St. Stephen - 457; Brainerd - 369; Sauk Rapids-Rice - 304; Willmar - 223; Fergus Falls - 202; St. Cloud Tech - 187; St. Cloud Apollo - 78
ALEXANDRIA SCORERS - 200-MEDLEY RELAY - Thomas Williams, Jameson Molesworth, Nick Olson, Garrett Maras - first, 1:40.18; Devan Swerman, Logan Tung, Ethan Johnson, Geoffrey King - eighth, 1:48.62; 200 FREESTYLE - Patrick Chromey - first, 1:48.35; Anthony Hoyt - fourth, 1:53.20; Carter Holm - 15th, 1:59.91; 200 IM - Nicolas Welle - second, 2:04.81; Williams - sixth, 2:12.32; Logan Tung - ninth, 2:14.34; 50 FREESTYLE - Maras - fifth, 23.11; Olson - 10th, 23.89; DIVING - Jackson Jahnke - 10th, 243.50; 100 BUTTERFLY - Olson - first, 56.09; Johnson - second, 57.56; Molesworth - seventh, 58.38; King - 14th, 1:01.03; 100 FREESTYLE - Welle - first, 48.95; Chromey - second, 49.00; Maras - seventh, 50.85; Swerman - 11th, 53.78; 500 FREESTYLE - Hoyt - first, 5:02.28; Torrey Olson-Rodel - 11th, 5:24.45; Holm - 12th, 5:25.65; 200 FREESTYLE RELAY - Maras, Molesworth, Welle, Chromey - first, 1:29.96; Johnson, Holm, Hoyt, Tung - ninth, 1:37.42; 100 BACKSTROKE - Williams - first, 55.73; Swerman - eighth, 1:01.34; Jameson Wolkow - 11th, 1:02.28; 100 BREASTSTROKE - Molesworth - second, 1:02.87; Tung - sixth, 1:06.21; Olson-Rodel - ninth, 1:08.01; Johnson - 12th, 1:09.41; 400 FREESTYLE RELAY - Welle, Williams, Olson, Chromey - first, 3:17.87; King, Holm, Swerman, Hoyt - eighth, 3:38.45