by Eric Oslund
The Elk River swim-dive team advanced six events, and six competitors, to the state tournament, which was held Thursday, March 2, through Saturday, March 4.
The diving preliminaries was the first event to step into the spot light, which meant Elk River’s eighth grader, Sam Hlavachek, was the first to go. 36 divers made it to the state tournament, and then that group was cut down to 20 after the first five dives.
Hlavachek found himself in that top grouping, and made it into the semifinals, but that is where is time would come to an end. He finished 18th at state, and only the top-16 divers moved on to the finals.
“He was a little bit disappointed that he didn’t make it, but he was very thrilled that he made that first cut,” head coach Denise Green said. “He’s got to work on his twisters, and that’s his offseason plan. He’s pretty excited to be coming back next year.”
Five events remained for the Elks. Zack Kopp would race individually in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles; Ben Kopp raced individually in the 100-yard backstroke; the team of the Kopp brothers, Preston Schmeidel and Coleman Maegi raced in the 200-yard medley relay; and the team of the Kopp brothers, Schmeidel and Trey Chilstrom raced in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
The preliminaries for all the races were held on Friday, March 3, and the swimmers knew they would have to give it everything they had if they hoped to make it to the final rounds on Saturday, and the results showed they did just that. Zack Kopp would set a new Elk River varsity record in the 200-free (1:44.54) and the 500-free (4:48.45). Ben Kopp set a new varsity record in the 100-back with a time of 50.80, and the 200-medley relay team also set a new varsity record with a time of 1:38.27.
The 200-medley relay, Zack’s 200-free, Ben’s 100-back and the 400-freestyle relay all advanced to the state finals, with Zakc’s 500-free coming just short after finishing 19th. None of the events that advanced performed as well in the finals as they did in the preliminaries because they just didn’t have enough left in the tank after giving it all they had the night before.
“We had to go all out Friday to qualify for Saturday,” Green said. “The state meet is a whole other level. They drained the tank on Friday and we swam a little slower for everything on Saturday, but not a lot slower. It was really tough for Ben to come off that backstroke and into the 400 free relay. He just gives it his absolute everything and he needed some more time to recover than he had. Friday in the 400 freestyle relay, they went a 3:16.20 and (Saturday) they went a 3:18.36 and ended up 15th. He had a really tough time recovering from the backstroke into that last relay.”
Along with the 400-free’s 15th place finish, the 200-medley relay took 13th with a final time of 1:38.67, Zack Kopp took 14th in the 200-freestyle with a time of 1:44.81, and Ben Kopp took seventh in the 100-backstroke with a time of 51.62.
Ben Kopp’s time of 50.80 in the section preliminaries was also fast enough for All American consideration in the 100-yard backstroke. The top 100 times in the nation are All American, so he has the possibility of earning the honor, depending on the rest of the times posted nation wide.
Looking back on the season, Green can’t help but be happy with the way her boys performed. They would have liked to advance a few more swimmers to state, but they ended up accomplishing everything they wanted to.
Now, she is just looking forward to next season. Excited to see which of her underclassmen will step up and fill the voids left by the departing seniors.
“Every year we say, how are we going to do it again, and every year the underclassmen step up,” she explained. “The great thing about these boys is they come back bigger, stronger and faster. I’d say half of them train in the offseason, and once they get that taste of winning, they want to do it again.”