The Hastings Raiders boys' swimming and diving team had its meet against the Simley Spartans come down to the very last event, the 400-meter freestyle relay. The Spartans edged out the Raiders 94-92 as Hastings was not able to finish first and third in the event to win it.
Despite the loss, Hastings was able to win eight-out-of-12 events and, in that 400 freestyle relay, the team of John Rupp, Joe Everson, Jack Gergen and Avery Stoffel beat their best time of the season by three seconds according to head coach Gerry Rupp.
Those eight winners were: the 200 medley relay team of Rupp, Gergen, Stoffel and Carter Williams in one minute and 45.39 seconds; Gergen in the 50 freestyle with a time of 22.41; Vova Tipler in the one meter dive with a score of 299.35; Rupp in the 100 freestyle (50.85); Everson in the 500 freestyle in 5:12.79; Stoffel in the 100 backstroke with a time of 59.72; Gergen in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:03.45; and that 400 freestyle relay team who won with a time of 3:27.21.
Taking second were William Jensen in the 200 IM with a time of 2:10.92; Williams in the 100 butterfly in 59.07; and Rupp in the 100 backstroke (59.86). Third-place finishers were the 200 medley relay team of Chris Benson, Philip Jensen, Liam Shelhamer and William Jensen in 1:54.50; Philip Jensen in the 200 IM with a time of 2:15.58; Elijah Pace in the one meter dive with a score of 194.40; Philip Jensen in the 100 butterfly in one minute flat; and the 200 freestyle relay team of Carter Williams, Dylan Shemon, Tyler Sorenson and Everson (1:40.08).
Rupp said that his team is almost fully healthy now after battling injury and illness, like many teams are encountering this winter, after getting hit hard this past December compared to past seasons.
"I would say, probably this year has been worse than the last three or four years," he said. "We've kind of dodged a bullet the last three or four years. Also, this is my 28th year coaching, I've never had three, essentially season-long shoulder injuries."
He also praised Everson for battling through the illness over the past few weeks and swimming extremely well against Simley while still sick.
Looking ahead to the finish of the regular season and then sections, Rupp said he is content with where his team is at and the direction its headed.
"The guys that were going to be really top-notch, they're right where we need them to be," he said. "Gergen in the 50 freestyle is probably better than what I expected right now, so that's good. His breaststroke is, for the section level, in very good standing, he's probably number two at the section level. John Rupp (Gerry's son) is right where he needs to be in the backstroke, he's only four-tenths (of a second) off the state cut and he was, I think third in the 100 freestyle at the True Team section so he's where he needs to be too. The thing we're kind of up in the air about is those relays."
With the extreme youth of his team, Rupp said that this year the focus will be on individuals.
"As far as team goes, it's been a tough year," he said. "This is one of those years where you're shooting for individuals and trying to advance guys and help them out to reach their full potential."
However, Rupp is seeing development in his young swimmers.
"The ninth-grade class has done really well, they're working hard and getting some stuff done," he said. "The 10th-graders have some work to do yet, they're still trying to learn how to swim fast. It's going to be tough, without having a whole class (there are no juniors on the team), so next year no seniors, there's not a lot of leadership right now. Hopefully somebody will step forward and step up."
Hastings has a junior varsity conference meet on Thursday, Feb. 8, and then a diving invitational on Saturday, Feb. 10, held at Hastings Middle School. Sections are Wednesday-Friday, Feb. 21-23, at the Rochester Recreation Center.