Focus, talent, dedication drive Alexandria to second-place finish at state

Sartell-St. Stephen beat Alexandria twice before the state meet on Saturday, but the Cardinals clipped their conference and section rivals at the University of Minnesota on March 20 to bring home a second-place finish in Class A.

The Alexandria swimming team brought home a second-place finish at the Class A state meet from the University of Minnesota on March 20, 2021. Team members at state are (left to right) head coach Kathy Walker, Erik Reineke, Anthony Hoyt, Thomas Williams, Ethan Johnson, Torrey Olson-Rodel, Nicolas Welle, Carter Holm, Logan Tung and assistant coach Steve Kluver. Not pictured are divers Caden Kavanagh and Aidan Staples, who had a hand in the finish but competed two days earlier. (Contributed photo)

Alexandria boys swimming and diving coach Kathy Walker was sitting in the bleachers at the Discovery Middle School pool after Sartell-St. Stephen beat her Cardinals on Feb. 18 when she made a prediction.

“I think (Sartell) can get second in the state,” Walker said that day. “I hope we can get third.”

Turns out Walker was a little off. Instead of the Sabres finishing runner-up to Class A power Breck-Blake, it was her Alexandria team that took second at the Class A state meet on Saturday. Walker couldn’t be more happy to be wrong.

“The boys disagreed with me,” Walker said with a chuckle on Sunday morning. “When we scored the meet out we were about two or three points from Sartell. Our boys swam extremely well. After the emotion of swimming at Sartell in their home pool at sections, we were hoping they would get down to the state meet and realize they belonged there and they were in charge of their own destiny. They went after it.”

The Cardinals had athletes in every event at state and finished with 250 points. Sartell was just behind in third place at 237, while Breck-Blake ran away with the title with 418.5 points.


The meet at the University of Minnesota was a stark contrast to the normally raucous environment there during state meets. No fans were allowed to attend. Only the head coach could be on the deck, while assistant coaches remained in the bleachers with their teams to monitor mask wearing and social distancing due to the pandemic.
Alexandria normally heads to the Twin Cities the night before state and stays in a hotel. This year, they drove down the morning of the meet for a noon start time. Then it was on them to provide their own motivation.

“We said in December when we were doing our Zoom dryland (training) for a month, would you ever have thought we would be here in the running for second place?” Walker said. “Or as they say, first place for public schools. They were like, ‘We hoped we would, but we never would have dreamt we would have the kind of season we did, especially beating Sartell.’”

Alexandria had four second-place finishes at state. Junior Nicolas Welle did so in the 50 and 100 freestyles, while junior Anthony Hoyt was second in the 500 freestyle, and Welle, Torrey Olson-Rodel, Hoyt and Carter Holm finished second in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:10.34.

Alexandria junior Nicolas Welle is all smiles after setting a new school record and taking second in the 50 freestyle at the state meet on March 20, 2021 with a time of 20.74. Welle went on to also finished second and set a new school record in the 100 freestyle in 46.05 seconds. (Contributed photo)

Welle’s times in the 50 freestyle (20.74) and 100 free (46.05) were both new school records. So too was Hoyt’s time in the 500 freestyle (4:43.22).

“It’s funny because the school record that Nicolas broke in the 100 free was set 20 years ago by Erik Esbjornsson,” Walker said. “He texted me asking for Nicolas’ contact. He was texting Nic in the van as we were driving back. (Former head coach) Mark Storhaug, (former athletes) Patrick Chromey and Luca Dauer, our former foreign exchange student from Germany, all those guys are texting the guys telling the whole team how proud they are. The family support they have for each other helps in their focus.”

Welle, Logan Tung, Hoyt and Holm were all-state as a top-eight finisher with a third-place finish in the 200 freestyle relay. Thomas Williams (100 butterfly, fourth; 100 backstroke, seventh), Holm (100 freestyle, fifth; 200 freestyle, eighth), Williams, Tung, Ethan Johnson, Olson-Rodel (200-medley relay, sixth), Hoyt (200 freestyle, sixth), and Tung (100 breaststroke, sixth; 200 IM, seventh) all piled on the all-state performances.


"“The families were texting during the watch party last night saying, ‘Wait a minute. Did we just get second?’ They’re just extremely proud, and they should be. I expect sacrifice...Those expectations pay off.” "

- Kathy Walker, Alexandria head coach

“We knew that Nicolas and Anthony would be all state,” Walker said. “But to have Logan be all state in two events, Thomas be all state in two events, Erik Reineke dropping time as a 10th-grader who’s never been in that meet before. Torrey Olson-Rodel -- they did better than they did last year. I’m just really, really happy with how they performed across the board.”

Williams is a senior for this group that was not happy with how he performed at state a year ago. Walker called his day Saturday the most pleasant surprise as he missed setting a school record by .03 in the butterfly and .01 in the backstroke.

“My heart went out to him, but he was so happy with how he swam,” Walker said. “He was just glowing. His college coach at St. Cloud State sent him a text congratulating him on a great meet. That’s just a chapter in his career.”

Alexandria swam in the afternoon and then had to wait for more sections to swim their portion of the state meet on Saturday night before the final results were in.

The Cardinals watched the meet together in Alexandria Saturday night and were already talking about what they can do next year to fill the holes left by graduation.

“We’re graduating all three fliers, and Nic said, ‘I’ll swim butterfly next year.’ He swam it this year and made the state cut (time),” Walker said. “He said, I’d go back to swimming IM because he went to state as a ninth-grader swimming IM. They’ve talked about how to fill holes from graduation...If I were to say anything, I think doing the dryland training in December was a tremendous help to us because they were stronger coming in.”


This was Walker’s fifth season leading the Alexandria boys program. She already had a hall of fame resume coming in, and she has taken what was a good program and helped it become one of the best in the state again.

“The families were texting during the watch party last night saying, ‘Wait a minute. Did we just get second?’ They’re just extremely proud, and they should be,” Walker said. “I expect sacrifice. I expect Saturday practices. I expect they’re not done until 6:30 at night and parents are waiting outside in the parking lot to pick up their kids. Those expectations pay off.”

TEAM STANDINGS - Breck-Blake - 418.5; Alexandria - 250; Sartell-St. Stephen - 237; Hutchinson - 136.5; Delano-Watertown-Mayer - 119; Benilde-St. Margaret’s - 111; Rock Ridge, Virginia - 108; Hibbing - 103; Willmar - 99

ALEXANDRIA RESULTS - 200-MEDLEY RELAY - Thomas Williams, Logan Tung, Ethan Johnson, Torrey Olson-Rodel - sixth, 1:39.03; 200 FREESTYLE - Anthony Hoyt - sixth, 1:44.83; Carter Holm - eighth, 1:45.98; 200 IM - Logan Tung - seventh, 2:01.19; Olson-Rodel - 11th, 2:03.52; 50 FREESTYLE - Nicolas Welle - second, 20.74; DIVING (From March 18) - Caden Kavanagh - 10th, 337.30; Aiden Staples - 16th, 295.85; 100 BUTTERFLY - Thomas Williams - fourth, 52.19; Olson-Rodel - 16th, 55.09; Johnson - 18th, 56.20; 100 FREESTYLE - Welle - second, 46.05; Holm - fifth, 47.66; 500 FREESTYLE - Hoyt - second, 4:43.22; Erik Reineke - 15th, 5:06.03; 200 FREESTYLE RELAY - Welle, Tung, Hoyt, Holm - third, 1:27.66; 100 BACKSTROKE - Williams - seventh, 53.48; 100 BREASTSTROKE - Tung - sixth, 59.69; 400 FREESTYLE RELAY - Welle, Olson-Rodel, Hoyt, Holm - second, 3:10.34

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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