Big showing propels FL to second at sections

No state qualifiers, but personal bests across the board

The Ranger boys’ swimming/diving team wrapped up its season with its best showing at the Section 7AA meet since 2007. (Photo by Jeff Moris)

Clint Riese
Sports Editor

Improving by one place at the section meet may not seem like much, but that jump does not begin to describe the leaps and bounds taken by the Ranger boys’ swimming and diving team this winter.

Forest Lake did not qualify anyone for state, but the second-place team showing at the Section 7AA meet over the weekend was still a resounding success. In all, the Rangers qualified 24 entries through the preliminaries and into the finals of the individual events. Personal bests were achieved in all 24 between the two rounds of section competition. All three relays put up season-best times, as well.

The time drops at Thursday’s preliminaries were the biggest coach Barbara Vailodash has ever seen, and she has been with the team since 2003. The times stayed low for the finals, despite competing on one day of rest.

“To carry the performance from Thursday to Saturday and only add under 0.25 to one second from one day to the next is amazing,” she said. “The team was awesome.”

The effort resulted in Forest Lake’s best team showing since winning the meet in 2007. To top it off, Vailodash won section coach of the year honors.

Senior Erik Klein came the closest to advancing to state. He swam to third place with a career-best time of 57.42 in the 100 backstroke finals, finishing just .13 of a second away from a state bid. Klein’s time is the fourth-fastest in program history.

Four Ranger underclassmen earned fourth-place medals in the individual events:

• Junior Joe Goossens finished the 200 free in 1:52.38, 1.04 seconds behind the final state qualifier. His preliminary time of 1:51.61 marks the eighth-best time in program history.

• Sophomore Bryan Fleming swam a personal-best time of 57.71 in the 100 butterfly finals, finishing 1.21 seconds out of second place. That time now stands seventh in the team record books.

• Junior Joel Stomberg’s personal-best effort of 5:12.74 in the 500 free is good for 10th in program history.

• Junior Evan Woehl cut 1.60 seconds off his best time in the finals of the 100 breaststroke, finishing in 1:03.83. It is the seventh-fastest time in team history.

Fifth-place efforts came from Stomberg in the 200 free (1:52.39, 10th in program history), Goossens in the 100 free (50.80, ninth in program history) and sophomore Stefan Albright in the 100 butterfly (58.13). Albright’s preliminary time of 57.45 is sixth in program history.

In the relays, Klein, Woehl, Albright and senior Nate Merrier set a season-best time of 1:44.75 in the 200 medley. They earned fourth place at the meet and seventh in the team’s record book.

Earning the same placings was the 200 free team of Merrier, Goossens, Fleming and ninth-grader Corey Bahr. Their time of 1:33.10 was also a season-best.

A time of 3:26.23 earned fourth place for the 400 free relay team of Bahr, Fleming, Goossens and Stomberg. It is the fifth-fastest time in Ranger history.

Anoka scored 441 points to win the eight-team meet. Forest Lake had 325, topping Andover by 33. With a small class of seniors, Forest Lake should be in the mix again next year.