Members of the Orono Spartan boys swim and dive team hold up their third place trophy after a strong performance at the MSHSL Class A Boys State Swimming and Diving Championship meet. (Submitted photo)
The Orono Spartans boys swim and dive season culminated with the MSHSL Class A State Championship meet last weekend at the University of Minnesota.
Thirty-two schools competed for the championship title with Breck-Blake taking first (408 pts), St. Thomas Academy second (204 pts), and Orono third (167 pts), narrowly outscoring Sauk Rapids Rice (158 pts.)
The Spartans showed their depth with eight team members qualifying for the meet. The state championship was a two-day event with preliminaries held on Thursday and Friday where the field was cut in preparation for the final round. The finals included the top 16 with a consolation heat (places nine through sixteen) and a championship heat (places one through eight).
Orono was able to meet the preliminary cut in all events they entered, qualifying for the championship final heats in all events except two.
The Spartans qualified for the championship heat in two of their three relays. In the 200 medley relay, the team of Mitchell Volk, Owen Gagne, Walter Royal, and Eli Fish placed third, shedding over 2.14 seconds from their seed time for a 1:37.73.
In the 200 free relay, the team of Royal, Colin Ziegler, Gagne, and Kaden Starcznski placed sixth with a time of 1:29.45, dropping 1.16 seconds. The 400 free relay qualified for the consolation heat, where team of Fish, Ziegler, Gagne and Starcznski took 13th place, dropping 0.81 seconds from their seed time.
In the individual events, Spartan senior Kaden Starcznski took sixth place in the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:58.83, dropping 1.34 seconds for a new personal record. He also placed fifth in the 500 free with a time of 4:52.01, while holding off competitors from Hutchinson and New Prague in what was a very tight race.
Orono junior Walter Royal also made it to the podium in two events. In the 200 freesytle, he shed .27 seconds, swimming to a fourth place finish in a time of 1:44.86, out-touching fellow junior Will Barth from St. Thomas Academy. Royal also took fourth in the 100 butterfly with a time of 51.71. Junior Owen Gagne took seventh place in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 58.83 seconds, a very tight race in which third through seventh places were all separated by less than a second. Orono freshman Eli Fish also performed well, taking ninth place in the 200 individual medley with a personal best time of 2:01.15, and 13th in the 100 backstroke with a time of 55.97.
In the 1-meter diving event, Orono eighth grader Gideon Fish took third place, the highest individual finisher for the Spartans at the meet. He scored 402.25 points, his best total for 11-dives, a very impressive performance in his first state meet appearance. Freshman Bjorn Jaenchen also performed well in his state meet debut, scoring 291.80 points and placing 15th.
It is safe to say that the Orono Spartans had one of their strongest teams, and seasons, ever. After going undefeated in dual meets, they were Metro West Conference Champions; they were Section Runner-up at True Team sections, and placed fourth at True Team State; they were MSHSL Section 2A Runner-up, and placed third at the MSHSL State Championship meet.
Their success is a testament to their hard work both in and out of season and their dedication to their sport and each other. The team will be celebrated at an awards banquet on March 19 in Wayzata.
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