Three HHS swimmers to compete at state meet
The present looks bright for the Hastings boys swimming team. And so does the future.
The present? Hastings senior Elliot Wilcox qualified for two events at this weekend's state swimming meet at the University of Minnesota. He has the second-fastest qualifying time in the100 freestyle, and the fourth-fastest time in the 50 freestyle.
The future? There are just two eighth-grade swimmers who qualified to race in individual events. Both are from Hastings. Colby Smith qualified for two individual events and Thomas Everson qualified in one.
Coach Gerry Rupp said he is thrilled to take an experienced swimmer to state who can contend for a state title, and two eighth-graders for whom the future is extremely bright.
More on Wilcox
The Hastings senior will race in the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle. He placed second in the section in the 50 and first in the 100.
His qualifying time of 21.59 seconds is second-fastest going into the state meet. Devon Meeks of Rosemount has the fastest qualifying time at 21.48.
"Elliot didn't have as good a race in the 50 freestyle at finals," Rupp said. "You have to be perfect in that race, and he wasn't. He said his turn wasn't his best. That's stuff we can fix for Saturday."
While Wilcox was touched-out in the 50 freestyle by just seven hundredths of a second, he returned the favor and touched-out his Winona opponent in the 100 freestyle to win the section title.
As a way to honor the athletes who win a section title, their coaches are the ones who hand out the section championship medals for their event. It was Rupp's turn to hand out the medals when Wilcox took the podium. As a nice surprise, Rupp deferred and asked one of his assistant coaches, Brittany Wilcox, to hand out the medals. She is Elliot's older sister, and she appreciated the gesture.
Wilcox won the section with a time of 47.50. Drew Johnson of Edina has the top time in the state meet field at 46.31.
More on Smith and Everson
Rupp certainly wasn't surprised two of his eighth-graders qualified for the state meet. Both are talented swimmers who take the sport seriously. They're also very hard workers.
"For both of them, it's work ethic," Rupp said. "They work incredibly hard, especially for eighth-graders. They are focused during practice. They don't goof around. I push them both with college-level workouts."
Smith qualified in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:00.34. The fastest seed is Mike Gratz of Edina, who has a time of 1:54.89.
Smith also qualified in the 100 butterfly with a time of 54.14. He won the section title with that time.
"We were hoping he'd get in both," Rupp said. "Colby is a racer. Some guys can be fast, but they're not racers. Colby likes racing. That last 25 yards, he doesn't want to lose."
Everson qualified in the 100 butterfly as well, taking second place with a time of 56.28.
"Thomas is a real hard worker," Rupp said. "He brings a positive attitude every day to practice. He's reaping the benefits of how hard he has worked this year."
Everson qualified by the slimmest of margins. With about 10 yards to go in the race, he was in fourth place.
"Somehow, he snuck out a second-place finish," Rupp said. "I didn't think he got it. I thought he got third. We looked up at the clock, and couldn't believe it."
The top time in the 100 butterfly at state is held by Maverick Hovey of Eden Prairie, who has a time of 50.26.
Hastings had 13 swimmers competing in the meet, and 10 made it back for finals. All of the swims turned in by all the athletes were season bests or lifetime bests, Rupp said.
"It was positive everywhere you looked," he said.
Brandon Underwood, another eighth-grader, had a very strong meet, Rupp said.
John Utecht, a freshman in his first season on the team, had a great meet as well, Rupp said. At the beginning of the season, Utecht "could barely do 25 yards," Rupp said. At the section meet, he had a 58-second time in the 100 freestyle. Earning a time less than 1 minute in the 100 freestyle is a major benchmark.