For three Red Wing seniors, the effort and continued improvement to go along with two medals made for a successful trip to the Class A state swimming and diving meet on Saturday.
The Winger relay team of Ian Johnson, Abe De Jong, Nick Bayley and Jayden Jech came in eighth place in the 200-yard medley relay with a time of 1 minute, 40.53 seconds. It was the event all season De Jong said the group was hoping to compete in at state.
"I had huge shoes to fill," De Jong said, " (with Willie Meachum graduated), who did a very good job of bringing our medley relay to state. I was kind of nervous that I wasn't going to (swim similar times as him). My teammates, Nick Bayley, Jayden Jech and Ian Johnson all stepped up."
Red Wing head coach Mikayla Beuch said the three seniors-De Jong, Johnson and Jech-all worked hard out of the pool as well to attain their goal.
Beuch said the trio worked hard in dryland workouts routines and went on a sugar-free diet this season. She hopes the team takes notice and can incorporate some of the habits of the seniors into their own preparation for next season.
Individually, De Jong earned a fifth-place medal in the 100 butterfly with a time of 52.22. He came into the state meet with a seed time of 53.16 seconds and improved upon that time in the preliminaries (52.60) and the medal race.
"A big problem for me has been my dolphin kicks," said De Jong of his individual performance in the 100 butterfly this season. "I kind of spread my legs a lot when you're supposed to keep your legs together. On my streamlines, I never keep my hands to together so I had to hone on those little things that made me faster and go through the water straighter."
De Jong said he wanted to crack the top-16 in the 100 butterfly at state. He said he was surprised to see he was seeded eighth coming into the preliminaries. At the end of the meet, De Jong said, "it's been the best possible state meet it can be for me."
Swimming in the consolation final in the 500 freestyle, Jech (4:59.98) came in 12th place overall. Johnson (54.39) swam in the 100 backstroke consolation final, finishing in 10th place overall.
Johnson and Jech each swam faster times in the finals than their respective preliminary races. It was constant improvement Beuch said she likes to see out of all her swimmers.
"In comparison, we are either swimming just as fast or faster from sections and that's pretty hard to do," Beuch said. "It's always hard to get up and go for prelims too. It's not as the same as finals when the pressure is really on. We still saw some phenomenal swims."
While the Wingers didn't have any diver qualify for state, De Jong-the team's top diver-said he's confident in freshman diver Tyler Gordon.
"Tyler has always been the fun sort of guy on our dive team. I've really been trying to ingrain into his head that he's the top diver now. He has a very good chance of making it to state (in diving) when he becomes an upperclassman. I think next year, even, he has a good chance of making it to state."
For De Jong, Johnson and Jech, this state run was their last as a Winger. De Jong said the two fellow seniors as well as junior Bayley have swam together for nine years and the camaraderie in the pool has grown every year.
"We've become really close friends and we definitely had the chemistry going," De Jong said. "The thing I'll probably miss most is swimming with them in relays. I was really sad we weren't able to bring our 200 freestyle relay to state, but it's OK, we still have the medley.
"I can't really nail it down to one highlight. It's been a great season with these guys. I definitely wouldn't have been able to push myself through all the practices without my them being there with me."