While both Bremen and Culver Military finished short of a championship at last weekend’s boys swim sectionals, both squads took home some pretty nice consolation prizes.
The Lions and the Eagles finished fourth and second at the Penn and Warsaw Sectionals, respectively, but both saw banner days for individuals, setting school records while grabbing multiple berths to this Friday’s 76th Annual IHSAA State Finals at the IUPUI Natatorium.
Bremen’s 400 freestyle relay of Will Serf, Krent Hueni, Nolan Filchak and Joe Zeltwanger earned an invite to compete this weekend, and sophomore Filchak made his second state cut as sectional runner-up in the butterfly, while CMA’s 200 free relay of Bryan DeVries, Grant Ralston, Sam Curtis and Leopoldo Rodriguez combined to win the Warsaw title in their event, DeVries won individual championships in both the 100 and 200 freestyles, and Leopoldo Burguete won his second straight sectional championship in the 500 free.
Competition is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET with the top 16 individuals earning a spot back to Saturday’s final round at 9 a.m.
“The sectional meet turned out just as I expected it to,” said longtime CMA head boys swim coach and current assistant coach Major Tom Duckett. “A meet of that nature is pure and very simple math. Our main concern was if the taper would allow our athletes to turn in their lifetime bests. At the close of finals it did. With that comes a satisfaction among our young men that they did what they needed to do in what is typically a down year for CMA due to the Inaugural events and holiday leaves. The real highlight for the team was breaking an eight-year-old school record in the 200 freestyle relay. For them to have their names up on that record board is a big deal.”
While Culver Military’s 200 free relay time of 1:31.1 was good enough both for a new program record and the sectional title at Warsaw, Bremen’s 400 free relay team had to make it to state through the back door.
Up at the Penn Sectional — which boasts some of the top swim programs in the northern part of the state in St. Joseph’s and the host Kingsmen — the Lions squad of Serf, Hueni, Filchak and Zeltwanger didn’t win a sectional title in their event. They didn’t even make runner-up, and their time of 3:16.75 wasn’t quite good enough for a state cut either, but it made for a nice surprise when the foursome was invited to fill one of the remaining spots in the 32-team field in their event at the IUPUI Natatorium.
“After I saw their large time drop in the Saturday finals, I had a good feeling they could get an invite to the date meet,” said Bremen head coach Meredith Eakins. “They were two seconds off the state cut in that relay; in the 400 there is more leeway since it’s a longer race. Once I checked into the times that evening from other sectionals around the state, I was very excited for these boys. They worked all season for this, and I was proud of their focus and intent on making it to state. The boys were beyond excited to have seen their hard work pay off and see what they could accomplish collectively as a relay team.”
Bremen grabbed some early momentum at Saturday’s Penn finals when Hueni, Stuart Schmeltz, Filchak and Zeltwanger rebroke the record they set in the medley relay at Thursday’s prelims with a 1:41.52 for third place, helping set the tone for big swims in the 200 free relay and Filchak’s individual state berth swim in the fly.
“That medley relay really set the mood for the meet right away,” Eakins said. “Hueni, Schmeltz, Filchak and Zeltwanger had it as their goal going into the meet to get the school record. They not only broke it Thursday but came back Saturday and broke it again. I was impressed with their ability to improve individually and put it together to create such a great race. They really worked together well as a relay and had their starts down exactly like they needed to.”
While both Bremen’s and CMA’s state berth relay swims were team efforts, the two squads were led by a pair of individuals Saturday in Filchak and DeVries.
Headed into Saturday’s 400 free relay finals, Filchak had already earned his second state berth in two years in the butterfly with a time of 51.95 for second place, and he-broke his own school record in the backstroke with a 54.5 for another sectional runner-up finish in that event as well — a big day for any athlete, let alone a mere sophomore.
“Nolan is a special athlete — the specific focus and mental toughness he put into each practice was just a foreshadowing of how his sectional meet would go this year,” said Eakins. “Nolan has amazing technique from his years of swimming.
“His times were not extremely fast for him during the regular season due to the fatigue from practice. That’s really what we want to see as we go through the regular season. Once he was rested and tapered, he dropped an incredible amount of time and really blew past the state cut in the butterfly. Backstroke is more of his second stroke, and he was confident going into that swim that his taper was right on and he could go fast. To break his own school record from last sectional by two seconds is just an amazing accomplishment. I’m very proud of the individual drive and mental toughness he has.”
Over at Warsaw meanwhile, CMA senior DeVries clocked times of 1:48.99 and 46.69 for a pair of sectional championships in the 200 and 100 freestyle races. His turn as anchor on the Eagles’ winning 200 free relay squad clinched him his third state berth of the day, a breakout performance for the senior whose principal sport is rowing.
“Brian came to us with a somewhat limited swimming background and had not been in training in swimming for some time prior to arriving at Culver,” said Duckett. “This year’s sectional meet was the breakout meet for him. He experienced massive drops in both the 100 and 200 free. Once the state meet is over it is on to crew for him, which is his primary sport.”
Bremen’s and CMA’s state-qualifying swimmers feature a balanced mixture of newcomers and veterans as Eagles Ralston and Rodriguez and Lions Filchak and Hueni cap off their sophomore seasons, Serf finishes up his first year of high school swimming as a freshman and Zeltwanger closes out his high school career along with CMA seniors DeVries, Burguete and Curtis.
It’s a preview of the potential of some of the area’s most promising young swimmers and a chance for the upperclassmen to close out their careers in style against the best competition Indiana has to offer.
“My hope for our seniors is that they have a great time at state with each other and are able to compete at their full capacity and without any stress. Grant Ralston and Leonardo Rodriquez are the future of CMA’s sprint freestyle corps and getting to state is a really good first step. As is typical with boys, they will get faster, so their journey should be an interesting one to follow over the next few years,” Duckett said.
“One of the most exciting things about this group of guys is that three of them are back for the next two to three years. I am hopeful that their confidence has been boosted by this experience and also that they use this to set their goals even higher for next year. These guys have grown a lot throughout the season, becoming true competitors, and I’m confident they’ll be even tougher next year,” said Eakins.
“This has to be an incredible feeling for Joe Zeltwanger to end his high school swimming career with a trip to the state meet,” she continued. “The Joe that swam this year was a totally different competitor in the pool than the one we saw last year. His confidence, his attitude and his times have all improved significantly from last year, and I couldn’t be happier for him to have this opportunity his senior year. He’s been a great leader this season, and I think he’s really shown some younger swimmers how much they can improve in four years.”