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Raiders place 14th at state swim meet

Sinjin Wilkerson swims the backstroke during the state swimming and diving meet at the University of Minnesota.

In the winter of 2004-05, Gerry Rupp came out of coaching retirement and took his old job as head swimming coach at Hastings High School.

That first year he was back, his team didn't win a single meet.

But those athletes he first saw as eighth-graders got a little bit better over the years, and all that improvement was showcased over the weekend at the state swimming meet at the University of Minnesota. They're now seniors, and they helped Hastings to a 14th-place finish at the meet.

Two of them were even part of a school-record relay team.

"My first year back, we didn't win a meet," Rupp said. "Just to think where they have come, from not winning a meet, to progress to the state meet, and swimming that fast. It's been a testament to how hard they've worked over the past five years. They won't be easily replaced next year."

In the final race of the state meet, the 400 freestyle relay, Hastings finished 11th with a school record time of 3 minutes, 17.23 seconds. Two seniors, Sinjin Wilkerson and Dusty Bohlken, led off the relay. Sophomore Andrew Keller and junior Elliott Wilcox rounded out the team. The anchor leg swum by Wilcox was the team's fastest, with a split of 47.7.

"That's an awesome swim," Rupp said.

Wilcox had a great weekend all around, finishing with all state honors in two races. Just last year, he was a distance swimmer. But this fall, he approached Rupp and said he could sprint.

"I said, 'OK, we'll give you a shot,'" Rupp said.

Turns out, it's a good thing Rupp gave him that shot.

Wilcox placed eighth in the 50 freestyle with a time of 21.94, and he took seventh in the 100 butterfly with a time of 52.41.

"For him, a former distance swimmer, to go under 22 seconds in the 50 is a pretty amazing swim," Rupp said. "Getting Elliott in the top eight for both of his events was a goal we were shooting for."

Wilkerson qualified in two individual events, which was no small feat. He missed about a month of the season with an illness.

"For him ... just to get to the state meet was very impressive," Rupp said. "We didn't know how he was going to be able to perform, but he came through with some good swims."

Wilkerson placed 14th in the 100 freestyle with a time of 48.74. He took 10th in the backstroke in 54.48.

The backstroke swim stood out to Rupp.

"That was an excellent swim for him," he said. "He almost got back to his lifetime best time. He looked pretty good."

The 200 medley relay team also placed, taking 12th with a time of 1:40.87.

The team was made up of Bohlken, Chase Gerold, Wilcox and Wilkerson.