Alexandria swim and dive wins battle of undefeateds in dual that had been circled on the calendar for weeks
The Cardinals won 11 of the 12 varsity events, with narrow wins in the 200-medley and 200-freestyle relays proving to be vital in beating Brainerd 100-86.
The Alexandria boys swimming and diving team has positioned itself in recent years to have duals throughout the course of a season that carry a lot of meaning.
Matchups against Sartell-St. Stephen certainly fit that description. So too does any meet against another perennially-strong program in Brainerd.
The Warriors were in Alexandria on Thursday night for what was a marquee matchup for both teams in the Central Lakes Conference. Both were undefeated at 6-0 and 5-0 in the CLC, and it was Alexandria that left that way after a 100-86 win.
“I think it’s the biggest meet of the season so far,” Alexandria senior Carter Holm said. “It’s really motivating for me and the rest of the team to beat Brainerd with them being our biggest competition.”
There was no downplaying what this meet meant for Alexandria. The Cardinals had the saying, ‘Battle of the undefeateds” written on their board at the pool for weeks.
Head coach Kathy Walker knew the Warriors’ top swimmers matched up well with many of Alexandria’s top athletes, and she wrestled with how to fill out the lineup until Wednesday night.
“I just said I’m not doing this anymore. We’re going to put together our best lineup and let the kids do the winning,” Walker said. “That’s what happened. The kids just had to do it in the water, and that’s what they did.”
Alexandria’s top-level athletes picked up a lot of wins like they always do. Senior Nicolas Welle set a new pool record in the 100 butterfly as he won that event in 52.46 seconds. That was part of four first-place finishes on the night that Welle was a part of.
Anthony Hoyt won the 200 and 500 freestyle races, along with joining sophomore Eric Peterson, freshman Cooper Running and junior Erik Reineke in taking the 400 freestyle relay. Holm was part of three first-place finishes, and got a big second-place finish behind Welle in the 50 free.
“We have a great group of seniors,” Walker said after the Cardinals honored 12 athletes on Senior Night. “Not just the kids who win their events. Carter is right up there too, but it’s Zach Timm in the 100 and 50. Eli Biggers or Coltan Koehn or Joel Brault. Any of those kids who are kind of the meat and potatoes of our team. Anthony Hoyt is another one who came through when we needed him to come through.”
Alexandria won 11 of the 12 events. Walker said she knew they needed to win the 200-medley and 200-freestyle relays in order to take the team win. They did so by barely out-touching Brainerd in both events.
“By tenths and hundredths of a second,” Walker said. “We told them, ‘We’ve trained you for this over and over again.’ The kids proved they were listening. The kids did everything they needed to do and what we expected them to do in the pool from diving, to the relays, to Eric Peterson’s win in the backstroke was a glorious surprise. Nic’s 100 fly, we thought he could be 53 flat, but 52? We’ll take it. They proved over and over again what they’re made of.”
Peterson, Logan Tung, Welle and Holm finished in 1:39.62 to the Warriors’ 1:40.08 in the medley relay. Welle, Tung, Reineke and Holm finished the 200 free relay in 1:29.89.
Welle and Tung let out a scream after Holm touched the wall just in front of Brainerd junior Mason Kuepers as the Warriors finished in 1:29.94.
“It was definitely a boost,” Holm said of the 200 free relay win. “It felt good to outtouch him, and I think it hyped everybody up. It was exciting.”
Peterson went on from there to win the backstroke in 58.19, and Tung took the breaststroke in 1:03.35.
So many of these swimmers who are upperclassmen now have been anchoring this lineup for years, but Alexandria’s diving has helped to make this team unbeatable so far. Eighth-grader Kyler Kavanagh has broken out in a big way this winter. He finished first again on Thursday with a total score of 236.70.
“I don’t know if he has one,” Walker said when asked what Kyler’s ceiling could be in the coming years. “He texts Rooney in the middle of the night and says, ‘I just thought about this dive I could do.’”
Kyler finished right in front of his older brother, senior Caden Kavanagh, against the Warriors. Caden finished second at 221.75, and fellow senior Keaton Snitker was fifth at 158.65.
Having multiple divers score has become the norm for Alexandria, and Walker credits a lot of that to the way diving coach Aaron Rooney relates to the kids as a former standout diver himself.
“I know when I first came and started coaching here, I was at Stanford and I called Rooney and said, ‘I’ve just been hired as the varsity coach and I want you for the diving coach,’” Walker said. “He is one of the best coaches in the state of Minnesota, if not the upper Midwest.”
From diving to almost every single swimming event, the depth of this year’s team has shined to the tune of a 7-0 start now with its two biggest meets against Sartell and Brainerd in the books as wins.
“We put an 8th-grade boy (Luke Christenson) into the pool for the first time today in the 500 and he qualified for sections,” Walker said. “Eli Biggers, senior boy, has never been on the section team or conference team, he qualified for sections. So the heart that they’ve shown us when we’ve asked them to step up was really visible tonight.”
The Cardinals have one dual left against St. Cloud Apollo on Feb. 3 before the Central Lakes Conference championship at St. Cloud Tech on Feb. 12.
Brainerd and Sartell will get another shot at Alexandria at that CLC meet, but this is a group that has every reason to be confident heading into the championship portion of the season.
“I think we’ll be able to stay undefeated, and conference and sections we’ll be able to win,” Holm said. “Second at state is definitely a reasonable goal. Our team as a whole, we always try to push each other to be better. A lot of us are racing each other on the team to get better. The end goal is at state and finishing the season undefeated is a big push for us.”
ALEXANDRIA 100, BRAINERD 86
ALEXANDRIA POINT SCORERS - 200 MEDLEY RELAY - Eric Peterson, Logan Tung, Nicolas Welle, Carter Holm - first, 1:39.62; 200 FREESTYLE - Anthony Hoyt - first, 1:50.57; Erik Reineke - third, 1:57.52; 200 IM - Logan Tung - third, 2:08.13; Cooper Running - fourth, 2:14.22; 50 FREESTYLE - Nicolas Welle - first, 21.64; Carter Holm - second, 22.10; DIVING - Kyler Kavanagh - first, 236.70; Caden Kavanagh - second, 221.75; Keaton Snitker - fifth, 158.65; 100 BUTTERFLY - Nicolas Welle - first, 52.46 (DMS pool record); Eric Peterson - fourth, 58.56; 100 FREESTYLE - Carter Holm - first, 48.11; Erik Reineke - third, 51.51; 500 FREESTYLE - Hoyt - first, 5:08.61; Cooper Running - third, 5:21.83; 200 FREESTYLE RELAY - Welle, Tung, Reineke, Holm - first, 1:29.89; 100 BACKSTROKE - Eric Peterson - first, 58.19; Mark Meece - fourth, 1:04.68; 100 BREASTSTROKE - Logan Tung - first, 1:03.35; Matt Mayer - fifth, 1:17.39; 400 FREESTYLE RELAY - Hoyt, Peterson, Running, Reineke - first, 3:31.11