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Hastings swimmers win back-to-back section titles, prepare for state meet

Pictured from left to right are Cole Scully, Jack VanZee, Jack Weldon, Aaron McCullough, Vova Tipler, John Rupp, Trevan Rafter and Cal Gergen.

For the first time in school history, the Hastings boys swimming and diving team has won back-to-back section titles.

Saturday’s big win in Rochester came in a unique way after a big deficit and it ended with everyone on the team (including the coaches) taking a celebratory leap into the pool together.

It was a goal Rupp and the team had set way back in late November and to see it come true was the highlight of the year for the blue and gold.

“The total team effort from the guys made the difference,” coach Gerry Rupp said. “To be able to win this thing just showed that everybody was all in. It was a total team effort.”

The meet started Thursday with the section prelims and everything went according to plan for the Raiders. They got everybody back for finals that they had hoped to.

When the meet began Saturday, it looked as though Rochester Mayo was going to be the team to beat. Rochester Century, though, had other plans. The Panthers jumped out to a big lead with a number of strong swims. In fact, they led Hastings by 29 points going into the diving break.

“We came out on Saturday and we were swimming OK, but Century was on fire,” Rupp said. “At the halfway break, we went upstairs. I talked to the guys. I told them, ‘When I look in your eyes, you know what I see? I see fear. You need to get rid of that fear and get that look. The look where you want to go out and kick somebody’s butt.’

“It wasn’t looking good the way it was going.”

Whether it was Rupp’s words or something else, Hastings came on strong in the second half of the meet. Hastings diver Vova Tipler won the section title in his event and from then on the Raiders put the pedal down and ended up winning the meet by 25 points to win their second straight section crown.

“It was a huge turnaround,” Rupp said. “They turned it around after the diving break.”

One of the biggest events of the meet was the 100 backstroke. Hastings had three swimmers in the championship final, while Century had none. The Raiders picked up almost 40 points in the event while the Panthers got none.

“That was the difference,” Rupp said.

Before the final race of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay, Rupp and assistant coach Katie McAlpin were doing the math. They knew that Hastings just had to finish and not get disqualified in order to win the section team title. The 400 freestyle relay team, though, wasn’t content with just finishing. They went after it and almost won the state title. Their performance earned them a trip to the state meet, too.

“They knew we had the meet in the bag and they decided amongst themselves to go at it anyway,” Rupp said. “They decided they wanted it. That was really fun to see. They showed a lot of guts in that race at the end.”

Hastings finished the meet with 378 points. Century had 353 and Mayo had 343. There were eight teams in the meet.

The 400 freestyle relay team isn’t the only representative Hastings will have at the state meet. In face, Hastings will have competitors in nine of the 12 events. There will be seven swimmers and one diver representing Hastings.

Of the six seniors on the team, five qualified to swim and the other, Patrick Clark, will be an alternate. Also as an alternate will be Carter Williams.

Section diving

Tipler won diving, but he wasn’t the only Raider on the podium. Three Hastings divers finished in the top 11, earning the team 30 points.

“The boys did really well considering that this is such a big, meet which comes with a lot of pressure,” diving coach Briana Aarness said. “There was a lot of really young divers this year at the section meet for diving, and that includes our Hastings divers. Elijah (Pace) and Dylan (Shemon) were participating in the meet for the first time, and they had really great dives.”

Chris Benson had a big ninth-place finish for Hastings. Shemon was 11th and Pace was 17th.

State meet

Hastings qualified in the 200 medley relay. The team’s time of 1:38.83 puts them in the middle of the 21-team pack. The top 16 teams advance to Saturday’s final round.

The relay was made up of Aaron McCullough, Trevan Rafter, Jack Weldon and Jack VanZee.

In the 200 freestyle, Jack VanZee qualified with a time of 1:44.08. The top time in the event is held by defending champ Sam Schilling of Minnetonka, who has a time of 1:39.25.

VanZee is a senior.

Cole Scully, another senior, qualified in the 50 freestyle with a time of 21.90.

“He has always been a championship swimmer,” Rupp said. “He’s always, at the last meet, coming on strong. This year, we finally got a full season of him being healthy. He had a full season of training and he made that time qualifier in the 50, which is extremely hard to do.”

The top time in the event is held by Jordan Greenberg of Eden Prairie, who has a time of 20.52.

In diving, Vova Tipler qualified. The HHS sophomore will be aiming for an all-state finish. Diving prelims are Thursday with finals on Saturday. Tipler is a three-time section champion for the Raiders.

In the 100 freestyle, Aaron McCullough is a state qualifier. He is a junior. His time of 48.24 puts him in the middle of the 22-person field.

He qualified by making the state meet time cut, which is hard to do in a sprint freestyle event.

“It was great for him to make that time and qualify for the state meet,” Rupp said.

VanZee also qualified in the 500 freestyle. His time of 4:44.50 is one of the best in the field. He did not rest for the section meet and Rupp thinks some big time drops are possible for VanZee at the state meet.

“By his standards, the section meet was a little bit of an off meet for him -- but that was by design,” Rupp said. “We made him swim through sections. He wasn’t tapered. We’re resting him this week and preparing him for the state meet. He swam fast times at sections, but he was, quite frankly, tired. He did the job he needed to do to position himself for state, which is what great swimmers do.”

The state’s top time this year is held by Sam Schilling of Minnetonka in 4:31.59.

The Hastings 200 freestyle relay team qualified for the state meet. They have a time of 1:28.86 and are in the middle of the pack. At sections, that team was made up of Scully, Rafter, Cal Gergen and VanZee.

Rafter, a senior, qualified in the 100 breaststroke. He had a time of 1:01.63 in finals and an even faster time in the section prelims.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Rupp said. “It’s an interesting story with him. He almost didn’t swim the high school season this year. The first week of practice this winter with the club team, Kim Olson told him, you need to be on the high school team. He got his stuff in, came out for the team and look at where it got him -- the state meet. He put in a lot of hard work and it has paid off.”

Corey Lau of Minnetonka holds the top time in the state in the event at 54.81.

The 400 freestyle relay qualified, too. They have a time of 3:15.25 to put them in the middle of the pack. There are 21 teams qualified to swim at state. The section team in that event included Scully, Gergen, John Rupp and McCullough.

Section results

Here are the results from the section finals:

200 medley relay -- team of McCullough, Rafter, Weldon and VanZee, second, 1:38.83.

200 freestyle -- VanZee, first, 1:44.08; Cal Gergen, fifth, 1:49.59.

200 individual medley -- Rafter, fourth, 2:03.07.

50 freestyle -- Scully, fourth, 21.90; Rupp, fifth, 22.78; Clark, seventh, 23.08.

Diving -- Tipler, first, 450.30; Christopher Benson, ninth, 239.50; Dylan Shemon, 11th, 219.60.

100 butterfly -- Weldon, fourth, 53.36; Carter Williams, 11th, 58.11; McCullough, second, 48.24; Scully, fifth, 48.98.

500 freestyle -- VanZee, first, 4:44.50; Gergen, sixth, 5:04.39.

200 freestyle relay -- team of Scully, Rafter, Gergen and VanZee, third, 1:28.86.

100 backstroke -- McCullough, fourth, 54.95; Rupp, sixth, 56.35; Weldon, seventh, 56.52; Williams, 15th, 1:00.81.

100 breaststroke -- Rafter, second, 1:01.63; Clark, ninth, 1:05.13.

400 freestyle relay -- team of Scully, Gergen, Rupp and McCullough, second, 3:15.25.