Don't talk about pressure with Griffin Blegen.
His answer is surprisingly bland for a person who was placed in pressure-packed situations early in his varsity swimming career.
That's not to say Blegen doesn't thrive under pressure. The senior sprinter and relay anchor just isn't in the pool long enough to feel any.
"Being an anchor you're basically put in the same crowd as the rest of the fastest guys in the state or the section," Blegen said. "That makes it fun. You have to hold the lead if you have one and that's what I find the most fun. It's not really big pressure. I don't really focus on pressure if there is any. It helps me if I'm behind so I can chase people down and stuff like that.
"I kind of like being behind because then you have somebody to chase and somebody to look at. That will just automatically make you go faster."
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- Sport: Swimming and diving
- Events: Freestyles and relays
- Year: Senior
- Age: 17
- Height: 6-foot
- Career highlight: Setting school record in 200-yard freestyle relay with Preston Owen, Michael Bylander and Gunnar Niemeyer
- Grade-point average: 3.07
- Favorite class: Chemistry
- Favorite food: French toast
- Favorite movie: "Get Out"
- Favorite TV show: "Family Guy"
- Favorite app: Snapchat
- Favorite restaurant: Perkins
- Future plans: Attend college, currently leaning toward Bemidji State University
- Favorite athlete: Caeleb Dressel
- Parents: Mindy and Brian Blegen
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Blegen anchored Brainerd's 200 medley relay to a first-place time of 1:47:53 against St. Cloud Tech Jan. 10 and the 400 free relay to first in 3:31.50.
The same foursome of Andy Dillon, Cody Evans, Tristan Dawson and Blegen won the 200 medley against Willmar Jan. 15 in 1:46.62. Blegen switched to the 200 free relay with Dawson, Dillon and Connor Lund for a winning time of 1:34.94.
"There is a ton of pressure as the anchor, and I think Griffin has anchored the medley relay since he was a sophomore," Warrior head coach John Zemke said. "He thrives in that. He doesn't back down from it and he embraces it. Some kids you don't want to have at the end of your relay. When it comes down to it, he anchors those relays and handles that pressure very well."
At last year's state meet, Blegen anchored Brainerd's medley relay to ninth place in the 200 medley and the 200 free relay to sixth place.
Also at last year's state meet, Blegen finished 24th in the 100 free with a 48.53. His section time was 48.19. He's hoping to go a lot faster this year.
"For my 100, I want to beat our school record, which is a 47:11. I'm trying to aim for a 46.9ish," Blegen said. "That's what I want to get. Then for my 50, I want to get 21.8, I believe."
The key to Blegen's goals are starts and turns, he said.
"Really it's just technique," Zemke said. "In the 50, it's only 50 yards so you're really making sure that your start and your turns are streamlined and everything is on. One little mistake, you know, if you don't hit the wall just right, your time is going to be off as much as a half a second.
"We're just working hard in practice with that, and he's got some lofty goals for the end of the season. Hopefully, everything works out and he nails his starts and turns come section time, and hopefully, he'll be able to advance to the state meet."
Against Willmar, Blegen won the 50 in 23.44 and then captured the 100 in 51.48. Against Tech, he won the 50 in 23.09 and the 100 in 51.05.
On the season, Blegen leads the team in points with 203.5.
He finished second in the 50 at the Section 8-2A True Team meet Saturday, Jan. 19, with a 23.14. He was fourth in the 100 free with a 51.18.
"In practice, you just have to work your hardest every day," Blegen said. "With your races, I do a lot of thinking about them. I think about what I really want to accomplish within the race to make myself go faster. Those are probably the two biggest things."
Zemke isn't sure which of the three relays Blegen will anchor come sections. With the school record already in the 200 free, Blegen has his eyes on the 400 free relay. That relay finished fourth at the True Team meet, while the medley relay was third.
What's not in question has been Blegen's leadership on a young Warrior team.
"It's been huge. He does a great job of sending out a bunch of reminder messages, but also just kind of encouraging those younger kids. He's got eighth- and ninth-graders in his lane and he does a great job of leading by example and throwing out encouraging words to the guys. He's just been a great team member and has done a great job of being our captain this year."
Other notable performances
• Ben Staehling, basketball, finished with 26 points against St. Cloud Apollo.
• Maddox Canon, Kadyn Robinson, floor hockey, each recorded hat tricks against Anoka.
• Olivia King, girls hockey, finished with 23 saves in a 3-1 win over Sartell and made 14 saves in a 3-0 win over Roseau.
• Joey Sauer, basketball, finished with 21 points against Sauk Rapids.