Boys’ swimming: Up for the challenge at the Maroon and Gold Invite

One of the boys’ swimming season’s top events of the calendar, the Maroon and Gold Invitational, brought together 57 teams across four divisions at the University of Minnesota’s Aquatic Center Jan. 5.

Andover garnered third place and Blaine seventh place in the Bronze Division with 336 and 254 points, respectively. The Huskies were 132 points behind runner-up Brainerd and 154 points away from champion Sartell-St. Stephen. Blaine was 39 points behind sixth-place Park, Cottage Grove.

Anoka finished sixth among 11 teams in the Maroon Division with 337.5 points, 9.5 points behind fifth-place Woodbury and 185 points behind champion Lakeville South.

Blaine's Connor Hollingsworth takes a breath during his leg of the 200 medley relay at the start of the Maroon and Gold Invite's Maroon Division Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Jones

Blaine’s Connor Hollingsworth takes a breath during his leg of the 200 medley relay at the start of the Maroon and Gold Invite’s Maroon Division Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Jones

Blaine's Chad Peichel looks at another lane during the 200 medley relay at the Maroon and Gold Invite Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Jones

Blaine’s Chad Peichel looks at another lane during the 200 medley relay at the Maroon and Gold Invite Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Jones

Andover's Amar El-Hammamy takes a breath during the 200 free at the Maroon and Gold Invitational Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Jones

Andover’s Amar El-Hammamy takes a breath during the 200 free at the Maroon and Gold Invitational Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Jones

Blaine's David Brunik in the 200 free at the Maroon and Gold Invitational at the University of Minnesota Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Jones

Blaine’s David Brunik in the 200 free at the Maroon and Gold Invitational at the University of Minnesota Jan. 5. Photo by Bill Jones

Huskies and Bengals
Andover scored 90 more points than last year as several individuals had strong times highlighted by the 400-yard freestyle relay team of sophomore John Kemp, junior Jack Rodman, senior Cody Corthell and junior Tyler Behnke, who won the race with a time of three minutes, 28.60 seconds, 0.74 of a second ahead of runner-up Brainerd. Behnke led a trio of Andover swimmers in the 200 individual medley with a fourth-place finish in 2:11.69; Kemp was fifth in 2:11.80 and Rodman was sixth in 2:12.44.

Behnke placed sixth in the 100 free and senior Cody Corthell was 10th.

Rodman garnered fourth place in the 100 backstroke and Corthell was sixth.

John Gendreau was eighth in the 100 breaststroke and Jake Camacho finished 10th.

Andover’s 200 medley relay team (Rodman, Gendreau, Behnke and Kemp) opened the meet with a fifth-place finish while Blaine (Alex Polansky, Connor Thomas, Mazen Hammad and Austin Bongers) trailed in sixth place by 0.74 of a second.

Blaine was highlighted by Bongers, a senior sprinter, who placed second in the 50 free in 22.45 seconds, 0.14 behind Sartell senior Jack Hellie’s winning time.

Bengals sophomore distance swimmer David Brunik had a strong effort to place fourth in the 200 free and eighth in the 500 free.

Polansky, a sophomore, placed fifth in the 100 back and Hammad placed ninth in the 100 fly finals.

Tornadoes stay strong
The eighth-ranked Anoka swimmers and divers had a busy back-to-back swim schedule the first weekend of January.

Anoka traveled to No. 3-ranked Edina for a non-conference dual meet Jan. 4, but couldn’t match the Hornets’ top-notch roster depth in a 93-85 dual meet.

“The boys swam and dove very well but even with many best times of the season, couldn’t top Edina’s depth,” Anoka coach John Jacobson said.

The Tornadoes opened strongly by winning the 200 medley relay with Alex Kvidera, Nick Hedman, Caleb Birklid and Cole Birklid. Matt Hedman and Cole Birklid also won the 100 back and 50 free, respectively.

Anoka’s 400 free relay (Kvidera, Josh Gerick, Matt Hedman and Cole Birklid) posted a season-best and state qualifying time.

Jacboson said the times of his 200 and 400 free relays has been the biggest surprise of the season so far.

“They’re already at our finals times from last year,” he said, with more than a month left before sections.

Edina’s Erick Huft set a new program record in the 500 free of 4:35.97. The previous record of 4:40.08 was set by Chris Satterthwaite in 2010.

Anoka turned around the next day to score 337.5 points, 185 fewer points than champion Lakeville South.

Jacobson said his squad came out slower than he would’ve liked, but picked up the pace as the meet moved along.

Cole Birklid won the 200 free and Gerick was fifth in the event. Birklid and Matt Hedman dominated the 500 free, sweeping the top two spots. Birklid edged his teammate 4:47.97 to 4:48.53.

The two teamed with Kvidera and Nick Hedman in the 200 free relay and placed second only to Lakeville South by 1.79 seconds. Anoka’s B-relay (Caleb Birklid, Chris Voltin, Franco Cerise and Gerick) was 10th and only the second team to have two teams among the top 10 relay times.

Matt Hedman garnered fourth place in the 200 IM, with only three seniors ahead of him, two of whom were Wisconsin swimmers.

Kvidera placed seventh out of 35 swimmers in the 50 free.

Anoka’s 400 free relay team of Kvidera, Gerick, Matt Hedman and Cole Birklid closed out the meet with a third-place finish of 3:20.65 behind champion Eau Claire, Wis., (3:17.07) and Wayzata (3:20.63).

“Cole is a hard worker and wants to work on getting faster,” Jacobson said.

To increase his speed the coach has him swim more sprints in hope to help his longer events. “You can’t have a a fast 50-yard [free] until you have a fast 25 and you can’t have a fast 500 until you have a faster 100 yards,” he said. “Technique and speed is his goal for the season and he’s doing great so far.”

Jacobson said Birklid and Matt Hedman along with some of the other top-end swimmers had a remarkably strong training session of 100 sets of 100-yard-long swims with 20 sets at race-tempo. “Both Matt [Hedman] and Cole [Birklid] averaged 55 seconds on all 20, which for that many in a row and on not that much rest was exciting,” Jacobson said. “Josh Gerick, Caleb Birklid and Mike Rosier then in turn get pushed to do more too. These boys are not only getting quicker but they are being great role models.”

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