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Aqua men set bar high with first two meets

Park freshman swimmer Justin Kong finished sixth as an individual in the 200 IM with a time of 2:20.96 at the Woodbury Invitational last week.

According to Park boys head swimming and diving coach Charlie Cauthorn, the Wolfpack set the bar high with its first two meets of the season last week.

Park finished sixth out of nine teams at the Suburban East Conference Relays on Thursday at Stillwater, then earned sixth place out of 10 teams at the Woodbury Invitational on Saturday.

"You don't really have a good clue where the kids are at before that first meet," Cauthorn said. "It's a good opportunity to get some kids to race and get a chance to see where they'll fit."

The team always opens up the year with the SEC relays, where each event is made into a relay, which allows swimmers to take part in different events than they usually would along with helping bring the team closer.

"You really get a chance to bring your kids together," Cauthorn said. "This is one of the first opportunities for those kids to cheer for each other. Because it's a relay there's four kids swimming in each event and we all get pretty excited about it."

At the SEC relays, Park finished in sixth place with 64 points, ahead of Forest Lake (54 points) and Roseville (46 points). Defending conference champion Stillwater won the meet with 126 points.

Individually at the SEC relays, the 200 freestyle relay "A" team of Zach Elliot, Justin Kong, Kyle Lewis, and Matt Haerle finished in second place with a time of 1:38.31, which was just behind Stillwater's time of 1:36.75 in the event. Park's "B" team of Aaron Popowitz, Adam Michelson, Wilson Schell and Robbie Clous did well in the event also, finishing in 10th place with a 2:00.15, which was the second best time of a "B" team and was ahead of Forest Lake's "A" team.

"That shows we really have some great sprint speed already," Cauthorn said. "Finishing second overall was really great. That means our sprinters are probably right in line with the rest of the conference."

In addition to finishing second in the 200 free relay, Park's Travis Dorsch, Connor Rand, Kong and Elliot earned fourth in the 200 backstroke relay with a time of 1:59.93. Hastings won that event with a 1:49.80 time.

Park's 200-yard butterfly relay team of Andrew Treadway, Kong, Dorsch and Lewis, was fifth with a time of 1:55.93. The winning time of 1:46.38 was turned in by Mounds View.

Park also finished in sixth place in the 200 breaststroke relay with a 2:28.55 time. Lewis, Popowitz, Matt Henry and Nick Bibeau made up that team. Stillwater won that event with a time of 2:07.44.

Park's divers also finished in sixth place with a 104.8 score. Forest Lake took that event with a 194.4 score.

"Give those kids a couple weeks to get ready," Cauthorn said. "They'll be fine. They'll do it."

At the Woodbury Invitational, Park totaled 116.5 points to finish in sixth place, topping Richfield (114.5), a pared-down Stillwater team (77.5), North St. Paul (56) and Tartan (35). Woodbury, which earlier in the week finished second at the SEC relays behind Stillwater, won the event with 310 points.

Park sophomore diver Tyler Gelbmann had the highest finish for the Wolfpack coming in fourth place with a score of 184.85 to give the team 11 points. Mike Hedges, who is a freshman finished seventh overall with a 152.8.

Park's top finish in the swimming events was turned in by its 200-yard medley relay team of Elliot, Lewis, Dorsch and Kong with a time of 1:56.02 for a fifth-place result and 20 points.

The 200 free relay team of Elliot, Kong, Lewis and Haerle, which finished second at the SEC relays, turned a sixth-place result at Woodbury with a time of 1:44.96.

As an individual, Elliot, the team's senior captain, finished sixth in the 50 freestyle with a time of 25.04 and sixth in the 100 backstroke for 16 total points for Park. Tom Schultz of North St. Paul won the backstroke with a time of 58.22

Kong also finished sixth as an individual in the 200 IM with a time of 2:20.96. St. Paul Central senior Daeus Jorento won the event with a 2:09.21 time.

In both meets, Cauthorn was happy to see his young swimmers scoring points for the team. In addition to Kong, who is a freshman, Rand, Dorsch, Nick Wheelock, Patrick Rand and Quint Larson are also freshman. While Bibeau and Kevin and Chris Isely are sophomores and Popowitz and Treadway are juniors. Cauthorn felt all those swimmers had good meets and are showing a lot of promise.

"We did a great job at Woodbury," Cauthorn said. "Those younger kids scored some big points for us at some big meets.

"We don't have a lot of kids who swim year round, so for us, these first two meets are good to show us where we are starting out. In some cases we're finishing ahead of where we finished the year last year. I anticipate they'll all continue to improve throughout the year."

Next up for the Park boys swim team will be the team's first head-to-head conference match of the season when it plays host to Hastings on Thursday at Cottage Grove Junior High.

Cauthorn said Hastings, which finished third overall at the SEC relays, has a number of high-end swimmers that will be tough to beat, but that Park's depth could help the Wolfpack beat the Raiders.

"In the past we've really been able to use our depth," Cauthorn said. "We'll definitely need that to compete against Hastings. They have some real quality swimmers. What's going to be telling is if we can go two, three and four in any of those races and put some pressure on them."