Despite bringing a team of just four swimmers to the Class AA state championships on March 3-4, the Forest Lake contingent earned point-scoring performances in seven events to total 91 points and finish as Minnesota’s seventh-best team.
“The guys all swam with a lot of heart,” head coach Joe Mau said. “They really left it all out there.”
Three captains qualified in two individual races each.
Junior Ben Chatwin made it to the podium twice, finishing fourth in the 50-yard freestyle (21.04) and seventh in the 100-yard freestyle (46.57).
Senior Wyatt Thompson qualified for the B-finals in the two longer freestyle races. He placed 13th in the 200 (1:44.30) and 14th in the 500 (4:46.88).
“This has been my favorite time I’ve ever had swimming,” Thompson said. “I would never trade it for the world.”
Senior Duncan Johnson placed 12th in the 200-yard individual medley (1:56.28). He missed the finals in the 100-yard backstroke, finishing 25th in the preliminary round (54.89).
Chatwin, Thompson and Johnson also swam their way to podium finishes in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays, joined by freshman Alec Jankowski in both races. The Rangers placed fourth in the 200 (1:26.05) and eighth in the 400 (3:13.47).
“The 200 free relay was a beautiful race,” Johnson said. “We got our team record for the third time this year.”
Placing seventh in the state with a relay’s worth of competitors is just the last of many phenomenal accomplishments by this year’s swim and dive team.
“This has definitely been the best season in Ranger history,” Thompson said.
The Rangers rewrote the school record book throughout the season, setting new marks in eight of the 12 events, and in many cases breaking them multiple times.
“The past two seasons we’ve almost wiped our record board clean,” Johnson said. “We just keep dropping time.”
“We’ve talked a lot about setting a legacy,” Mau said. “They’ve done a great job of buying into that mantra. You look up at that record board now and I’m just smiling ear to ear. It’s been a magical season; this kind of thing doesn’t happen every year.”
“I couldn’t have had a better swim season,” Jankowski said.
For Thompson and Johnson, the state meet marks the end of their Ranger careers, but both will swim for Division I teams next season. Johnson has committed to the University of South Dakota. Thompson has not finalized his school choice but hopes to join Johnson on the Coyotes squad.
“I’m never going to forget swimming on relays with (Thompson and Johnson) and training with them, all year round for the past few years,” Chatwin said. “This was a great meet to say goodbye to them.”
“Duncan and Wyatt are absolutely phenomenal,” Mau said. “They have their own personal nicknames for me but they’re tough as nails. They work hard, and more importantly they’ve taken the younger swimmers under their wing and shown them how to swim tough, how to practice, how to do things the right way. Guys look up to them and say, ‘I want to be the next Duncan or the next Wyatt.’”