Raiders place fourth at state swim meet
At the end of the state swimming meet on Saturday night, Hastings swimmers and coaches couldn't believe what they were seeing - Hastings had finished fourth place at the year's biggest meet, the best finish in school history.
"It was incredible," coach Gerry Rupp said. "It was surreal to be that high the entire meet. Halfway through the meet, we were sitting third. Just to have that kind of performance ... . That's the best Hastings has ever done."
Eden Prairie ran away with the state title, scoring 344 points. Edina was second with 237 and Minnetonka third with 177.5. Hastings had 133 points. Forty-five teams scored in the meet.
Entering the meet, Rupp was simply hoping for a top-10 finish.
"I have gone into previous meets with, perhaps, my sights set too high, and I walked away disappointed," he said. "This year, I tried to temper it a little bit and I said I'd like a top-10 finish. After the first day, it looked more like it was possible to do a top-five finish. Fourth was one spot better than we had dreamed of."
The best news is that all the Hastings swimmers who qualified for the state meet are coming back next season.
The meet got off to a great start for Hastings as the 200 medley relay team of Brandon Underwood, Cole Tipler, Colby Smith and Hayden Schmitt set a new school record with a time of 1:36.81. They placed fourth and were just two tenths of a second from an All-American Consideration time.
"Across the board, they all swam really well in order to get that job done," Rupp said.
Hastings entered the tournament seeded with a time that put them in the high teens.
"They had to perform, and they got the job done," Rupp said. "That's a credit to the four of them working together."
Thomas Everson was the next Hastings swimmer to take the pool, swimming the 200 freestyle. He finished seventh in finals. He had a time of 1:43.28 in prelims and 1:43.68 in finals.
"He had what I would call a painful race in finals," Rupp said. "You could see he was struggling a little bit, but he toughed it out and hung in there and pulled off that seventh position."
Colby Smith was next, and he placed sixth in the 200 individual medley. He had a time of 1:56.70 in prelims and 1:52.92 in finals.
He entered the meet seeded 27th.
"That's a huge accomplishment for him," Rupp said.
In the 50 freestyle, Hayden Schmitt raced for Hastings. He didn't qualify for finals, finishing the prelims with a time of 22.16.
"In the 50, you have to have a great start and a great turn," Rupp said. "In the prelims, Hayden got off the block a little slow. He had a slow start, and that will do you in. That's what happened."
By comparison, Schmitt had a split of 21.1 when he swam the 50 freestyle as part of the 200 medley relay team.
Smith then raced for Hastings in the 100 butterfly and he placed fifth. He had a time of 51.38 in finals.
"He was disappointed in that swim," Rupp said. "He had his sights set on the guy who won it. There was a little too much excitement in that one. Colby didn't swim his race. He went out too fast and he paid for it in the back half of his race. That gives him some motivation to train and come back and shoot for that No. 1 slot next year."
Underwood took the pool for the 100 freestyle and in prelims had a tough go of things, swimming a time of 47.73. That time qualified him for the consolation final. In finals, he had a time of 46.85 seconds, which would have placed him fourth. As it were, the best he could place was ninth because he was in the consolation finals.
"He just owned that consolation heat," Rupp said. "It was fun to watch him lead that race from start to finish. At times, he had as much as a body-length lead."
In the 500 freestyle, Hastings had two entrants - Jack VanZee and Thomas Everson.
VanZee took the pool first in prelims and finished with a time of 4:50.31, moving him into the fifth spot in all-time rankings at HHS. His time, though, didn't qualify him for finals. He placed 18th.
"That kid was doing a 5:10 a year ago," Rupp said. "Cutting 20 seconds is phenomenal. When he went 4:53 at sections, we were ecstatic. Then he went three seconds faster at state. Nobody would have expected that."
VanZee's swim, Rupp said, motivated Everson.
"He knew if his teammate could go that fast, he could go even faster," Rupp said.
Everson cut time, finishing in 4:45.39. That qualified him for the consolation finals, and he placed ninth with a time of 4:43.26.
"He had that time drop in finals, and he came back in finals and swam a smarter race," Rupp said.
With the two Hastings swimmers at 4:50 or faster in the event, Rupp is excited about how they'll just make each other better.
"Those guys both have someone to train with now," Rupp said. "They'll both explode. Having someone else who can do that distance work is going to benefit both of them. I wouldn't be surprised to see both of them in the top eight next year."
The 200 freestyle relay team was disqualified due to an early start, judges ruled. Had the team's time stuck, they would have placed about 15th after prelims.
In the 100 backstroke, Underwood placed third, the top Hastings finish at the meet. He was just three hundredths of a second off second place.
"Brandon, clearly, was on a roll on Saturday," Rupp said. "He was feeling good."
Last season, Underwood finished with a time in the 54 second range. He cut that down to a 51.8. The two swimmers who finished ahead of him this year were both seniors.
"Things are looking promising for him," Rupp said.
The 400 freestyle relay then capped off the state tournament with another school record.
The team was made up of Schmitt, Smith, Everson and Underwood. They had a time in finals of 3:11.07.
"For those guys to go out and break their own school record by a second and a half, that's a phenomenal swim," Rupp said.
At the season-ending banquet on Sunday, the team handed out awards.
The team's MVP was Hunter Sassor.
The hardest worker was Thomas Everson, and the most improved was John Rupp.