Boys Swimming and Diving: 5 swimmers headed to state

Almost five seconds. That's how much the Brainerd Warriors 200-yard medley relay team shaved off of its prelim time to win Saturday's Section 8-2A championship and advance to the Class 2A state tournament. The foursome of Preston Owen, Michael By...

Michael Bylander
Michael Bylander

Almost five seconds.

That's how much the Brainerd Warriors 200-yard medley relay team shaved off of its prelim time to win Saturday's Section 8-2A championship and advance to the Class 2A state tournament.

The foursome of Preston Owen, Michael Bylander, Gunnar Niemeyer and Griffin Blegen posted a 1:37.93 to better Elk River's second-place time of 1:38.87. Brainerd's prelim time of 1:42.72 was almost two seconds behind Elk River's prelim time.

The foursome also set a St. Cloud Tech pool record breaking the previous record of 1:38.43 by St. Michael-Albertville in 2012.

"That was one of the best races that I have watched," Brainerd head coach John Zemke said. "Certainly it is in the top five. Those kids really performed well. We were proud of them and that was a fun race and very unexpected. I thought maybe we could be 1:39 high, but to go 1:37 high was very surprising and a lot of fun to watch."


Bylander also advanced to state with his winning 1:00.53 in the 100 breaststroke. It bettered his prelim time of 1:00.74. The Class 2A state standard time is 1:00.87.

Bylander will be busy as he also advanced with his second-place 2:00.37 in the 200 individual medley. Bylander bettered his prelim time of 2:01.47. He followed only Maple Grove's Kelby Modene, who won in 2:00.05.

"He's so fun to watch and all four of his strokes are getting faster and faster," Zemke said. "He had a great meet and he's very confident right now. It's fun to watch him swim because his turns are great and his stroke is great and he's really becoming a great swimmer.

"We knew going back to True Team that he would be top three in the breaststroke. I really didn't think he would go one minute. I know his goal time was 59.9. Going in he was a 1:04 so to post the time he did was a great achievement."

Niemeyer maintained his No. 2 seed in the butterfly to advance to state. The junior swam a 53.15 in the finals.

"Gunner's split in the medley relay, that's one of the fastest splits we've ever had in our school history," Zemke said. "Then for him to make it in the butterfly that was a great swim and he's only a few tenths of a second off Josh McKeag's butterfly record."

Owen couldn't match his school record 53.43 prelim time in the finals, but still managed second place in the 100 backstroke. Owen posted a 55.39 to advance.

"I take a little bit of blame for Preston because he swam back-to-back events," Zemke said. "He led off our 200 free relay and then he had to go into the backstroke. We didn't have him do it Friday night, but then Saturday he swam. It's difficult to go back-to-back races and we knew it was a gamble, but thankfully he got in with a second. That was a difficult thing to do, but we needed him to do that."


Owen broke the oldest record in the boys program taking down a 1983 mark.

Brainerd's 200 freestyle relay shaved almost six seconds off its prelim time to post a second-place 1:30.61. Owen, Bylander, Devan Liebeg and Blegen trailed only St. Michael-Albertville which posted 1:29.04 to win the section title.

"That was another nice race," Zemke said. "We only swam those guys together once or twice this year. It was kind of a last minute team. We thought we would go 400 free relay all year, but we looked at the section and thought maybe the 200 free would be a good bet and put those guys together and performed well. It was a nice outcome."

The top two relays, the top two individual swimmers and the top four divers along with those making it by time standard advance to state.

That left Tim Whiteman one place away in diving as he scored a fifth-place 336.5.

"We all felt bad for Tim," Zemke said. "He had a great section meet and did a super job. Thankfully he's back next year. He was very close. He dove very well. He hit some great dives. Next year we hope we can advance him to state because he's a very talented diver."

Brainerd place second in the final team standings behind St. Michael-Albertville.

"We were 21 points behind Elk River on seeds so we thought we had a pretty good chance to make those points up and we were happy about doing that," said Zemke. "We wish we could have made up a few more points on St. Michael. We were down 133 on them and cut that to 60.


"I'm just so happy for the kids. We had 35 swims Friday and 31 made it to Saturday, either the consolation or championship heat. It was a fun meet.

Team scores: 1-St. Michael-Albertville 470, 2-Brainerd 410, 3-Elk River 320, 4-Buffalo-Maple Lake 224, 4-Moorhead 224, 6-St. Cloud Tech 169, 7-Maple Grove 162, 8-Rogers 124

200 medley relay: 1-Brainerd (Preston Owen, Michael Bylander, Gunnar Niemeyer, Griffin Blegen) 1:37.93

200 freestyle: 1-Max Lezer (STMA) 1:42.81, 8-Eric Rude (Brd) 1:55.85, 9-Connor Lund (Brd) 1:55.60, 10-Pierce Solseth (Brd) 1:56.11

200 individual medley: 1-Kelby Modene (MG) 2:00.05, 2-Bylander 2:00.37, 10-Andy Dillon (Brd) 2:12.91, 13-Jordan VanRisseghem (Brd) 2:15.88

50 freestyle: 1-Will Gallagher (STMA) 21.96, 5-Blegen 23.17, 9-Devan Liebeg (Brd) 23.22, 10-Michael Lyscio (Brd) 24.00

Diving: 1-Hunter Brings (Buff) 432.00, 5-Tim Whiteman (Brd) 336.50, 8-Izaac Herrlich (Brd) 293.05, 16-Cruz Lemmerhirt (Brd) 217.10

100 butterfly: 1-Ryan Everly (STMA) 52.51, 2-Niemeyer 53.15, 5-VanRisseghem 57.25, 12-Solseth 1:01.20, 13-Lyscio 1:01.78


100 freestyle: 1-Gallagher (STMA) 48.61, 4-Owen 49.21, 7-Blegen 51.28, 9-Liebeg 51.56, 13-Riley Backstrom (Brd) 53.58

500 freestyle: 1-Lezer (STMA) 4:46.12, 6-Niemeyer 5:05.88, 8-Lund 5:18.79, 9-Eric Rude 5:12.76, 12-Charlie Rude 5:17.62

200 freestyle relay: 1-St. Michael-Albertville 1:29.04, 2-Brainerd (Owen, Bylander, Liebeg, Blegen) 1:30.61

100 backstroke: 1-Ben Kopp (ER) 51.99, 2-Owen 55.39, 6-Dillon 59.99

100 breaststroke: 1-Bylander 1:00.74, 8-Cody Evans (Brd) 1:05.88, 10-Jacob VanRisseghem (Brd) 1:09.37, 15-Alex Vukelich (Brd) 1:10.73

400 freestyle relay: 1-St. Michael-Albertville 3:15.45, 3-Brainerd (Liebeg, Niemeyer, Eric Rude, Connor Lund) 3:28.40

Next: Brainerd in Class 2A state swimming and diving meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Minneapolis, March 3-4.

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