by Samantha Lefebvre
The Anoka boys’ swimming and diving team won its last dual meet of the season against Andover at the Fred Moore pool Feb. 2.
Anoka’s sheer mass of 62 swimmers helped give it a 36-point advantage over Andover’s 22 swimmers, 111-75.
“I knew we were in for a big contest with Anoka,” Andover coach Pete Crawford said. “I know that Anoka is a really good team and they have a lot of numbers, we didn’t really have the numbers. I think that we have a pretty good nucleus of kids that swim at a very high level but tonight we just didn’t have enough of them.”
The Tornadoes swept the board in 20 of 24 events against the Huskies, including a big win for senior diver Brent Verke. Verke won the diving event by a landslide with a score of 244.15.
“He is top 10 in the state right now,” said Anoka coach John Jacobson. “He is looking really well.”
The Birklid and Hedman brothers led the Tornadoes in seven of the 20 events they won. Sophomore Cole Birklid won the 200 freestyle, 1:49.93, and the 100 freestyle, 49.06. His time in the 100 put him one-hundreth of a second away from a state qualifying time.
“He is a very talented swimmer who just joined the team this year but he has been swimming club,” Jacobson said. “He is a very talented kid to add to the rest of our depth.”
His brother Caleb Birklid is also new to the team this season as an eighth grader. Their dad Scott Birklid is also the current assistant coach for the Tornadoes.
Matt and Nick Hedman also swam strong races and added to Anoka’s success. Matt Hedman won the 100 butterfly, 57.71, and the 100 backstroke, 58.71, while his older brother Nick won the 200 I.M., 2:11.73.
Freshman Matt Hedman will be searching for his third trip to state; he has gone every year since he started as a seventh-grader. Junior Nick Hedman has also been to the state tournament and has qualified every year since 2009, always in the 200 medley relay as the breaststroke swimmer.
Both the Hedman brothers and Cole Birklid along with teammate Taylor Dubois started off the meet with a first-place finish in the 200 yard medley relay with a time off 1:45.20.
Senior Taylor Dubois also came in first in the 100 breaststroke, 1:05.92, after a very close race against Andover’s Tyler Dettmann, 1:06:34.
“He is a kid who was also never a swimmer until he joined this high school team back as an eighth-grader and now he is one of the top breaststrokers in the conference,” Jacobson said. “He did really well at his taper last year and I believe he will do really well again this year. I’ll really miss him.”
The Hedman brothers, Cole Birklid and Josh Gerick also won the last event of the night, the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:32.03.
The Huskies came away with four first-place finishes. Senior captain Nick Weast contributed two first places, one in the 50 freestyle, 23.03, and the 200 freestyle relay with teammates Brady Malecha, Cody Corthell, and John Kemp, 1:36.75. Kemp also came in first place in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:22.27. Their solo junior varsity win came from seventh grader Camron L’Heureux in the 100 backstroke, 1:20.70.
“This is a good type of measuring meet for us because Anoka has always been the team that has won sections so they have the targets on their backs sort to speak,” said Crawford, who is in his first year at Andover.
The Tornadoes have been Section 7AA champs for four years in a row since 2008. They are looking to keep that streak going as they head in to the section tournament which starts Feb. 23.
“The end of the season is when we want to be going our fastest,” Jacobson said. “Some of the guys are running really tired right now and they are not getting their best times, but we are training for the end of the season. Hopefully we can win it again that is our goal.”