Feb 15 2018

A look at the Division 1 state meet:

Diving: Kenosha Tremper senior Brandon Spencer returns for a run at a third title; he’s been the state’s top diver since his sophomore year. Spencer enters as the clear favorite – he earned the top score coming out of sectionals (521.15) and is one of only seven returning divers to the state meet, where experience on the boards at the UW Nat can matter. Among those expected to give Spencer a run for his money are: Brookfield Central/East junior Brandon Rumpit, 4th a year ago (brother Connor was a state champ in the 500 free two years ago); Franklin junior Jared Klezca, 6th last year; and Madison Memorial senior Sam Smith, 8th a year ago. Four other divers come into the meet returning from last year, led by Evan Bredesen; the Neenah senior was 13th a year ago. Two other divers to watch: Marquette sophomore Mike Konle, winner of the Homstead sectional; and Caleb Emert-Mckeown of the West Allis co-op. Both come in with sectional scores topping 475.

200 medley relay: The could be one of the better shoot-outs of the meet. Qualifiers from the Middleton sectional hold down the top four seeds. Madison West comes in with the top seed, and features a lethal opening combination of juniors Wes Jekel on backstroke and Henry Miller on breaststroke – Jekel holds the 2nd overall seed in the 100 back, while Miller owns the top seed in the 100 breaststroke. The Regents also have the top seed in the 100 butterfly in senior Lain Weaver, but coach Bill Weaver of late has been saving his son for the two free relays. Sophomore Charlie Feller swam the fly leg at sectionals, but junior Constantin Bensch, a qualifier at state in the fly, has also swam the fly leg for West. Look for senior Matthew Fernandez to anchor. Madison Memorial enters as the second seed, with state 100 butterfly champion Alex Wowk on the backstroke leg leading off. Senior Roark Lundal is a strong presence on the fly leg. The Sauk Prairie co-op earned the 3rd overall seed, and comes into the meet as the defending state champs in the medley. Senior Desmon Sachtjen leads off the medley, and senior Ayden Frey was a big catalyst for the relay’s win last year with the meet’s fastest fly split. Senior Ben Chao will anchor. Middleton was just a smidge behind Sauk Prairie in sectional qualifying – junior Archer Parkin will lead out the Cardinals on the backstroke, followed by senior breaststroker Sam Young. Other relays in the final heat include: Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial, 6th a year ago; Muskego, 20th last year; Green Bay United, 8th last year; and Arrowhead, which had its medley DQ’d at last year’s state meet. All told, this is an experienced field, with 19 of the 24 relay qualifiers returning from last year. Sun Prairie, 18th a year ago, leads second-heat qualifiers, while Eau Claire Memorial/North leads first-heat qualifiers. Franklin, with two podium finishes the past two years at state, bears watching in lane 8 of the second heat.

200 free: One of the more intriguing races of the meet. Senior John Acevedo of the defending state champs, Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial, enters as the top seed. He was third a year ago, and is the top returning swimmer to the event, and WS/CM – if it hopes to repeat as team titlists – will certainly need some big performances from Acevedo. Ben Davis of the Greenfield co-op and Michael Draves of Middleton, two seniors and veterans of the state meet, bracket Acevedo in lanes 5 and 3; Davis was 5th a year ago, while Draves was 4th. Brookfield Central/East sophomore Michael Linihan sits in lane 6 as the 4th overall seed – he should be among the leaders if Brookfield’s history of strong tapers at state holds true again. Two seniors – Weaver of Madison West, and Conrad Farrell of WS/CM – will also swim in the final heat after finishing on the podium last year in the 50 free. The 50 is pure speed, with a focus on starts, turns and finishes, while the 200 free is a long, sustained (and painful) sprint – it will be interesting to see how the two seniors handle the transition to the longer race against a field of experienced 200 swimmers. Muskego’s Jack Rohlinger, yet another transplant from the 50 free (he was T-12th last year in the short sprint) and Madison Memorial’s Will Wowk, 13th a year ago, round out the final heat. Madison West sophomore Isaac Casey, 14th last year, comes in as the top seed in the second heat, while senior Aaron Donovan of Neenah sectional winners Bay Port leads qualifiers in heat 1.

200 IM: A wide-open event with the decision by Hudson’s Shane Blinkman to take a year off to focus on club meets and recruiting; he was 2nd a year ago to three-time state champ Paul DeLakis (now at Ohio State) and won this race as a freshman in 2016. Madison West’s Jekel owns the top seed after a strong season of swimming for the Regents, he was 5th a year ago. The top returning swimmer from last year – West Bend East/West’s Bryan Fitzgerald, who was 3rd behind DeLakis and Blinkman – sits right next to Jekel in lane 5 as the 2nd seed. It’s an experienced final heat, as all but one swimmer returns to the event from last year. Leading the way among the cast of veterans is Bay Port senior Calvin Schilz; he was 7th last year, and is one of the better breaststrokers in the field, often a key leg of the race. The lone newcomer to the race is Green Bay United sophomore Kaiser Neverman; he’s moved from the 50 free into the IM, and as one of the state’s top butterflyers, should be near the lead at the start. Two swimmers to watch in the second heat are Waunakee senior Jackson Madonia, 3rd two years ago in this event, and Sauk Prairie’s Dachtjen, 6th a year. Other state-meet scorers from last year in the second heat include Brookfield’s Sam Kult (11th) and Green Bay’s John Gahnz (13th). Muskego’s Ben Gabbey leads first-heat qualifiers; Arrowhead’s Ethan Murray sits next to him in lane 5 and was 16th last year.

50 free: Arrowhead senior Lucas Farrar comes in poised to take down the state record in this event, set in 2010 by Sauk Prairie’s Matt Friede. Farrar is seeded at 20.54, but was 20.23 at his conference meet three weeks ago; Friede’s record is 20.44. Farrar has been the state’s dominant sprinter this season, but the 50 free is a tricky, precise race where starts, breakouts, turns and finishes can determine a time as much as a swimmer’s pure speed. Sitting next to him in lane 5 with a seed time of 20.60 is WS/CM’s Jacob Carlson, who won the sprint at his home sectional last week. The third overall seed is held by defending state champ Ryan Linihan of Brookfield; he won this race coming out of lane 2 last year at the Nat. Other swimmers in the final heat returning to the race from last year’s meet include Garrett Wise of the Holmen co-op; Jeff Wiedoff of the Waukesha North co-op; and Lundal of Madison Memorial. Five swimmers from last year’s meet fill the second heat, led by Verona/Mt/ Horeb’s Shane Rozeboom, who was T-14th last year. Next to him is Neenah senior Eli Rocke; the Kenyon-bound swimmer was 5th last year, and will be swimming in his fourth straight state meet. Justin Craig of Franklin leads first-heat qualifiers; next to him in lane five is Sauk Prairie senior Ben Chao, 10th a year ago.

100 fly: This may be one of the better races of the meet, and the outcome could come down to a couple of veteran swimmers who know each other very well, and as well as a relative newcomer to the meet. Top seed is Green Bay United’s Kaiser Neverman; the sophomore had a terrific state-meet debut ayear ago with a 3rd-place finish. Second seed, and 2nd a year ago, is West’s Weaver, who battled an illness the week of the state meet. He enters with a seed time of 50.17, but has been 49.79 this season, and was 49.02 two years ago at state when he finished 2nd as well. Sitting next to him in lane 6 is the defending state champ, Alex Wowk of Madison Memorial. The beauty of the state meet is that it brings together swimmers who rarely compete against each other during the regular season, but Weaver and Wowk – seniors both – have swum against each other in the fly for four years at dual, conference, sectional and invite meets. Wowk won this race out of lane 1 at last year's state meet, surprising many. Drew Nixdorf of Arrowhead, also with a sub-50 second fly this season, swims out of lane 3 as the third overall seed. Jeff Weidoff of Waukesha North leads all qualifiers out of the second heat, while Sauk Prairie’s Frey, 4th a year ago, will try to move out of the first heat and into scoring position.

100 free: Arrowhead’s Farrar again leads the field; he’s seeded at 44.91 and holds a commanding 1.24-second lead over his closest competitor; he was 44.55 at his conference meet three weeks ago. It’s worth noting that Farrar came into last year’s state meet with top seeds in both sprints – as he does this year – but couldn’t hold those top spots, ending up 3rd in the 50 free and T-5th in the 100 free. But coach Kevin Ewald said he’s a better racer this year, and he’s certainly posted the most eye-opening sprint times of the season. Every other swimmer in the final heat save for one – newcomer Rozeboom of V/MH – finished in the top 12 last year at state. The brothers Linihan – Ryan the senior and Michael the sophomore – occupy lanes 5 and 6 in the final heat, while Farrell of WS/CM holds down the 3rd overall seed; Classic 8/Greater Metro swimmers hold down the top four seeds in the meet. Senior Aiden Clark of Neenah owns the top seed in the second heat, while Christian Frank of Marquette owns the top seed in the first heat and is – remarkably – one of four Hilltoppers who qualified for the race.

500 free: Can anyone run down the defending state champ? Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial’s Acevedo, having gone 4:30.12 last year to win, enters as the top seed and favorite. He’s been 4:27.90 at club meets (about a month after last year’s state meet), so he may have in his sights the D1 record of 4:28.98, set in 2009 by Arrowhead’s Ryan Hansen. Acevedo likes to take his races out hard to see if anyone can catch him, and he’s been unmatched this year among D1’s 500 free swimmers. Teammate Caleb Blischke sits next to him in lane 3 as the third seed; he was 6th last year as a freshman. The second overall seed is West Bend East/West’s Fitzgerald, who was 3rd a year ago. Rounding out the top seeds are Middleton’s Draves, runner-up last year, and Greenfield’s Davis, 5th a year ago. With five of last year’s six podium finishers returning, this is one of the more loaded events at the state meet. Stevens Point’s Drew Harris, 10th last year, Middleton’s Andrew Martin (11th) and Memorial’s Will Wowk (15th) round out the final heat. Junior Aiden Updegrove of Verona/Mt. Horeb – who probably could’ve qualified for the state dive meet, but is one of his team’s more valuable swimmers – sits in lane 4 in the second heat’s top seed after a very sharp sectional meet. He returns after an 18th-place finish last year. So does Bay Port’s Aaron Donovan, 19th a year ago, along with three freshman. WS/CM’s Nolan Scanlan, part of the strong Blackshirt tradition in distance swimming, holds the top seed in the first heat.

200 free relay: Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial comes in with the top seed; the quartet returns three of their four swimmers from last year's runner-up relay, and won't have to face former Eau Claire Memorial/North star Paul DeLakis (and his 19.74 anchor leg) again. Madison Memorial owns the second seed, with senior sprinter Roark Lundal likely to anchor; the Spartans were 5th a year ago. Madison West owns the third seed; this relay has made great strides from last season, when the Regents could muster only a 15th-place finish at state in this event. Expect to see Regents star Lain Weaver on this relay. Keep an eye on Broookfield Central/East in lane 1 with both Linihan brothers expected to swim here. This is an event deep with experience; 18 of the 24 relays return from last year's state meet. The Big 8 Conference has 4 relays in the final heat (Memorial, West, Middleton and Sun Prairie), while the Classic 8/Greater Metro has three (WS/CM, Brookfield Central/East, and Marquette). Neenah fills out the final heat qualifiers. Arrowhead, third a year ago, owns the top seed in the second heat, with Farrar likely to swim on it, perhaps on a leadoff leg. Next to them will be Sauk Prairie, which returns all four swimmers from its 4th-place relay a year ago. Franklin, 7th last year, leads all first-heat qualifiers.

100 backstroke: Despite the absence of defending state champ and D1 record-holder Shane Blinkman (who took the season off to focus on club meets and recruiting), this is still a loaded event. The four swimmers who finished right behind Blinkman's record-setting effort last year all return, and they hold down the four top seeds in the final heat. Leading the way is WS/CM's Carlson; he was 4th last year. The second overall seed is West's Jekel, who was runner-up last year to Blinkman. Arrowhead's Nixdorf, 5th last year, swims out of lane 3 as the third overall seed, while Memorial's Wowk, 3rd last year (he has never finished lower than 4th in this event in three previous state meets), sits in lane 6 as the 4th overall seed. Madison West teammates Jaden Weiss and Isaac Casey will also swim in the final heat; Casey was 16th a year ago, while Weiss has made great strides since last year, when he finished 12th at sectionals and didn't qualify for state. Green Bay united's John Gahnz, 8th a year ago, will also swim in the final heat, as will Carlson's teammate Nolan Scanlan. Two state-meet veterans -- Franklin's Justin Craig and Middleton's Archer Parkin -- hold the top two seeds in the second heat. while Sauk Prairie's Sachtjen -- T-6th a year ago -- bears watching out of lane 2. Muskego freshman Adam Fischer holds down the top seed in the first heat, joined by Oak Creek's lone qualifier, Jacob Trask.

100 breaststroke: Henry Miller leads a quartet of "West-strokers" for the Madison West Regents; with four breaststrokers and three backstrokers qualifying for state, West is the ultimate back-half team. Miller, 3rd a year ago, leads all seeded qualifiers with a 57.90. Second overall seed is Muskego's Ben Gabbey; Muskego has a strong breaststroking tradition, and Gabbey -- 13th a year ago -- will be joined by teammate Nick Schuster in the final heat. Brookfield Central/East also qualified two swimmers for the final heat: seniors Sam Kult, 7th a year ago, and Will Grintjes, who finished 11th in this race as a sophomore swimming for Marquette. He transferred to the Brookfield program and, after swimming JV events last year per WIAA rules, finds himself back at state. Bay Port's Calvin Schilz, 11th a year ago, will also swim out of the final heat. Waunakee senior Jackson Madonia -- a key linebacker for the Warriors' Div. 2 state championship football team -- holds the top seed in the second heat, and he's bracketed by a bunch of Big 8 Conference swimmers -- West's Charlie Feller and Ethan Dong, and Memorial's Cole Bell and Abram Zwaska. Greenfield co-op senior Isaac Jiardini leads first-heat qualifiers.

400 Free relay: A lot of quality relays dot the final heat; defending champs Eau Claire Memorial/North qualified again, but they won’t have the benefit of DeLakis’ sub-44 second anchor legs; they are the top seed in the first heat and looking to move up into scoring position. Top seed overall is Madison West; the Regents’ relay at sectionals featured Jekel on the second leg and Weaver anchoring, and both were 46-lows, suggesting they’ll both be under 46 at state. Bensch and Casey rounded out the West lineup. Middleton owns the second seed, with Arrowhead in lane 3 and the third seed; coach Ewald has been fond of using Farrar on the opening leg of this relay and seeing if other teams can catch the Warhawks. They were 2nd a year ago. Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial returns three swimmers from its 4th-place relay from a year ago. Rounding out the final heat is Neenah, Brookfield Central/East, Madison Memorial and Marquette. Muskego owns the top seed in the second heat, while Green Bay United with Neverman and Gahnz bears watching out of the second heat as well.