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Boys State Swimming and Diving: Warriors' 200 free relay qualifies for state finals

Brainerd's Preston Owen jumps in to anchor the Warriors' 200 free relay during the Class 2A state prelims Friday. Bill Johnson / Picture Day Pro!

For the first time in four years, the Brainerd Warriors will be standing on the podium at the Class 2A state meet.

In Friday's prelims at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center, the Warriors' 200 free relay of Gunnar Niemeyer, Michael Bylander, Griffin Blegen and Preston Owen finished fifth which was their seeding position entering the meet. Shakopee is the top seed at 1:25.66 with Brainerd at 11:26.90.

"That was a great swim," Warriors head coach John Zemke said. "Going in if you would have said we would be 1.2 seconds faster or something like that than we were at the section meet I would have been shocked. I was very happy how they swam tonight."

Zemke said they rearranged the order of the 200 free relay from the section meet and had Niemeyer lead off followed by Bylander and Blegen with Owen anchoring.

"We were trying to capitalize on the start and the finish a little bit," Zemke said, "and it worked. We had some very nice splits on that relay.

"Three of those guys (Niemeyer, Bylander and Owen) are seniors. They get to be on the podium (Saturday) and hopefully they'll go a little quicker."

The top eight finishers in each event in the prelims advances to Saturday's finals. Places 9-16 in prelims will swim in the consolation finals Saturday.

Owen, Bylander, Niemeyer and Blegen also swam the 200 medley relay. They were the 11th seed and finished 12th Friday to advance to the consolation finals.

"Two out of the four splits on that relay were lifetime bests, two were a little bit slow," Zemke said. "Hopefully (Saturday) they can hit and move up."

Bylander will be in the consolation finals in both of his individual events. He finished 14th in the breaststroke and 16th in the 200 individual medley.

Finishing one place away from making the consolation finals were Niemeyer in the 100 butterfly and Owen in the 100 free.

Owen finished 18th in the 100 backstroke and Blegen was 24th in the 100 free.

"In all of our events, we were off a little bit," Zemke said. "If you're off a little bit at the state meet, you're going to slip down."

Friday's preliminaries

200 medley relay: 1-Chanhassen 1:32.88; 12-Brainerd (Preston Owen, Michael Bylander, Gunnar Niemeyer, Griffin Blegen) 1:37.37

200 individual medley: 1-John Shelstad (Minnetonka) 1:49.19, 16-Bylander 1:57.85

100 butterfly: 1-Erik Gessner (Minnetonka) 48.90, 16-Joe Privratsky (St. Louis Park) 52.71, 17-Niemeyer 52.78

100 freestyle: 1-Andrew Trepanier (Lakeview North) 44.69, 16-Casey McGrath (East Ridge-Woodbury) 48.00, 17-Owen 48.04, 24-Blegen 48.53

200 free relay: 1-Shakopee 1:25.66; 5-Brainerd (Niemeyer, Bylander, Blegen, Owen) 1:26.90

100 backstroke: 1-Mitchell Whyte (North St. Paul 48.10, 16-Ezra Dickerson (SMA) 53.52, 18-Owen 54.36

100 breaststroke: 1-Hayden Zheng (St. Louis Park) 56.60, 14-Bylander 58.88