With a strong performance in the section preliminaries, the Rosemount boys swimming and diving team was in perfect position to defend its section title in the weekend's finals.
The performance in the preliminary events was not lost on first-year Irish coach Patti Wegner.
"In some events we had four guys qualify in the top 16," Wegner said. "That was huge for us. We won some events and had some great time drops. It was a very fun and exciting meet. I am very proud of the guys. I am excited to see how well we do at state this Friday and Saturday."
Rosemount won its fourth-straight section title last week by scoring 406 points. Eagan was second with 327.5 points. The Irish advanced three relays and six individuals in eight events to this week's state meet at the University of Minnesota.
As in past seasons, Rosemount emphasized its performance in the relay events and this year the Irish had reason to appreciate the team approach and the effort of the relay swimmers.
With Braden McCormick, Jake Stern, Luke Dowell and David Baker teaming up, the opening 200-yard medley relay team took first place. Rosemount touched the wall in 1 minute, 36.23 seconds, which is an automatic All-American time.
Of course, the Irish aren't satisfied with their All-American status.
"We plan on swimming even faster at state," Wegner said.
The 200 freestyle relay team of Sheldon Hatlen, Luke Dowell, Jake Stern and Conor Manning set pool, section and school records by finishing in 1:27.95.
Stern, a junior and one of the team's captains, stood out in each of his events. He took four first-place finishes. He was on two winning relays and added top finishes in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke.
He set a new school record in the 100 breaststroke by touching the wall in 58.02 seconds, breaking the record set by his older brother David Stern.
"He actually broke the record in prelims and then did it again in the finals," Wegner said. "Currently, he has the second fastest seed time going into the state meet in the 100 breaststroke. He deserves it. He is the hardest worker on the team."
Dowell also advanced to the state meet in four events. He was part of two winning relays, took one top finish and added a state-qualifying time in another event.
Dowell won the 100 butterfly and was ninth in the 50 freestyle, but advanced to state based on his 22.20 second time. He is seeded third in the 100 butterfly heading into the state meet.
Manning finished ahead of Dowell in the 50 freestyle, taking third place and earning a state-qualifying time of 21.72 seconds.
Daniel Monaghan was fourth in the diving competition, qualifying for state with 299.35 points. Anthony Tooley just missed out advancing to state with a fifth-place finish with 299.30 points.
David Baker was second in the 100 freestyle and will compete in the event at state.
Andrew Urness was fifth in the 500 freestyle, qualifying for state with a time of 4:56.75.
The 400 freestyle relay of Hatlen, Tyler Lawson, Manning and Baker finished second and qualified for state after finishing in 3:15.29.
Urness added a sixth-place finish in the 200 freestyle. Lawson was seventh in the 200 individual medley and sixth in the 100 butterfly.
Baker was sixth in the 50 freestyle; giving Rosemount three of the top seven place winners.
Manning was sixth and Hatlen finished eighth in the 100 freestyle, good for three Irish finalists.
Matthew McCormack placed sixth in the 100 backstroke. Alex Roberts was eighth in the 100 breaststroke.
The Class 2A state meet diving preliminaries are today at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center, starting at 6 p.m. The swimming preliminaries begin tomorrow at 6 p.m., with the finals of each set for Saturday at 6 p.m.
Coaches of the year
The Irish performance also gained notoriety for their coaches.
Wegner was named the Class 3A, Section 3 coach of the year. Tami Carlson was named the section assistant coach of the year.