State Swimming: Expectations higher than usual for Warrior swimmers

Brainerd Warriors Cade Rosenwald (left) Tristan Dawson, Dylan Paulson, Connor Lund, Parker Tatge and Mason Kuepers pause at the beginning of practice Monday, Feb. 24, in the Brainerd High School pool. The swimmers will be heading to the state swimming and diving meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center this weekend. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

There is a bit more buzz surrounding the caravan of Brainerd Warriors headed to the Class 2A State Tournament.

A No. 3 seed and two relays seeded within the top 16 will do that as the Warriors hope to have two successful days Friday, Feb. 29 and Saturday, March 1, at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis.

Junior Tristan Dawson is seeded No. 3 in the 100-yard backstroke after breaking the Elk River pool, Section 8-2A and his own school record in the Section 8-2A Finals Saturday, Feb. 22.

Dawson posted a winning time of 51.08, but there are 10 swimmers within a second of that time. Wayzata’s Casey Stowe has the top seed with a 49.17.

Dawson will also be swimming on Brainerd’s 200 medley relay and the 400 free relay. A six swim weekend is the goal.


“He’s got three races this weekend and we’ll just see what happens,” Warriors head coach John Zemke said of Dawson. “I’m sure at the end of the meet we’ll be looking at some pretty fast times.

“The times are so quick and we put everything we have in just trying to get there, but we have some seeds that are a little higher than usual. They’re super excited and depending on the kid you sometimes have guys who want to accomplish just a little more and not just settle for actually getting there. We’ll see what this group does. It should be a great weekend and I’m looking forward to it.”

Freshman Mason Kuepers will be busy for his first state meet. He qualified in both the 200 and 500 freestyles. He’s seeded 19th in the 200 freestyle with his Section 8-2A runner-up time of 1:47.83. The top 16 qualify for Saturday’s finals. The top eight swimmers will compete in the championship finals, while places 9-16 compete in the consolation finals. The No. 16 seed owns a seed time of 1:45.91. Eagan’s Jackson Kehler is the top seed with a 1:40.15.

“To qualify as a freshman, I mean we’ve only had a few every qualify for state,” Zemke said. “The fact that he made it down there is great. Now we’re just going to try and go faster. We’re not going to worry about the place. We’re going to try and go faster. We did a lot of pace work this week and we’ll go down there.

“The goal is always to swim faster than you did the meet before.”

Kuepers is seeded 20th in the 500 free with a 4:55.81. Kehler again owns the top seed with a 4:34.15. The No. 16 seed is sitting at 4:48.21.

“He looks great in the water and I think he needed another week of rest and that’s exactly what he’s going to get. We’ll just see what happens on Friday.”

Brainerd’s 200 medley relay of Dawson, Parker Tatge, Cade Rosenwald and Dylan Paulson is seeded 11th with a 1:37.43. Expectations are high for this foursome.


“They’re sitting 11th,” Zemke said. “If they put their four best splits together we are in that 1:36 range. Some teams maybe won’t go as fast. Maybe we go a second faster. To be in that top eight would be huge. It’s a tough road to climb, but if we can get all four guys to hit at the same time we’ll definitely be in that 1:36 range and that would be a new school record and hopefully, we’ll be sitting in seventh or eighth.”

Wayzata owns the No. 1 seed with a 1:33.35. Section 8-2A champion Maple Grove is seeded eighth. Brainerd would like to swap spots with the Crimson.

The team of Paulson, Dawson, Rosenwald and Conner Lund is seeded 15th for the 400 freestyle relay. They own a 3:16.79 seed time. Section 8-2A champion Maple Grove is seeded ninth with a 3:14.57 while Edina owns the No. 1 seed with a 3:09.81.

“We’re once again going to go faster,” Zemke said. “One of the guys on that relay was sick last week and he’s feeling a lot better now. Just him alone fully rested and feeling better we’ll know we’re going to go faster. We have a couple of seniors in that group so we don’t want Friday to be their last race. We have to beat a couple of teams and hopefully, they can advance and go a little faster.”

Class 2A State

Who: Brainerd’s Tristan Dawson (100-yard backstroke, Mason Keupers (200 and 500 freestyles, 200 medley relay (Dawson, Parker Tatge, Cade Rosenwald, Dylan Paulson), 400 freestyle relay (Paulson, Dawson, Rosenwald, Conner Lund)

When: Class 2A prelims 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 29, Class 2A finals 6 p.m. Saturday, March 1


Where: Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

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