2/13/2018 7:30:00 AM Lakeland swim repeats as sectional champs
The Lakeland boys swim team celebrates its second consecutive WIAA Division 2 Sectional championship on Saturday, Feb. 10, at Hudson Middle School. Pictured, front row, is Neil Borden; middle row, are Christian Duncan, Alex Tucker, Jack Metzger, Reed Smolinski, Scott Bresnahan, and Brandon Boh; and back row, Coach Chris Garcia, Joey Jurries, coach Robert Garcia, Grant Gibson, Jack Garcia, Liam Hogan and Tyler Teichmiller.
HUDSON - Lakeland Union High School boys' swim team won its first WIAA Division 2 Sectional championship last season and throughout most of this year, it looked like the Thunderbirds were the runaway favorite to repeat.
Disaster struck just days before Saturday's Sectional championship meet at Hudson Middle School, hosted by River Falls. Tyler Teichmiller, who was the top seed in the 100-yard breaststroke and key member of some of Lakeland's relay teams injured his knee in gym class and is likely out the rest of the season.
As a result, there was some uncertainty heading into the meet and early on, but the Thunderbirds began to flex their muscles and surged to win the sectional title for the second year in a row, scoring 290.5 points, 18.5 better than second place River Falls.
"It's very exciting. We certainly missed having Tyler, but some other guys stepped in, filled in some spots and did a really nice job," LUHS head coach Chris Garcia said.
Teichmiller's absence was felt in the first event of the meet. He is normally a big piece of the 200 medley relay, and despite a stellar performance by his replacement Reed Smolinski, Lakeland finished third and missed the cut for state.
The T-Birds didn't score any points in the 200 individual medley and Grant Gibson dropped the 50 freestyle to Tomahawk's Travis Phillips, who he nipped in the Great Northern Conference meet the previous week.
Despite the slow start, Lakeland began to get into some of its best races and began to pull away for the win.
"Had we had Tyler we would have easily won that sectional. With him being out we had to look at it a little differently," Garcia said. "We knew it was going to be way closer, probably within 20 points. With where we were seeded, our No. 1 and 2 guys couldn't really do any better being seeded first and second, but we had some other guys that were top 16 and if they could move up, we'd get more points. The thing is, River Falls had more places to go up than we did. So there was a potential for them to get higher points than what the score was on paper, but we did well. I was a little worried at the start of the meet, but then we went No. 1-2 in the 500 freestyle, the 200 free relay won and we were ahead going into the 400 free relay."
Jack Garcia repeated as a four-time sectional champion, as he did last season. After swimming the 200 individual medley throughout most of the conference schedule, including last week at the GNC meet, Garcia made the switch to the 200 freestyle.
It was an event in which he reached the podium at state last season and he edged Ben Bouchard of Pulaski by 0.34 seconds to repeat as sectional champion in the event. Garcia also successfully defended his 500 freestyle title by swimming a time of 4:55.69, besting teammate Liam Hogan in the process.
Garcia then teamed with Hogan, Gibson and Brandon Boh in the 200 freestyle relay and Boh, Gibson and Alex Tucker in the 400 freestyle to win both events yet again, while setting new school records in both events.
The 200 freestyle relay swam 1:30.5. and the 400 freestyle relay earned a time of 3:19.59.
"His 200, I thought, was really good. His 500 was not as good as we had hoped," coach Garcia said. "But we're hoping he goes his best time at state so he's going to be resting a little more this week. I know he's going to do better and his splits in the relays were where they should be, so he's happy with that."
While Gibson came in second in the 50 freestyle, he still qualified for state in the event and became a three-time sectional champion for the second year in a row.
Gibson defended his championship in the 100 freestyle with a time of 48.8 seconds, almost two seconds faster than the rest of the field.
"He went a little bit deep on the start in the 50 and then Travis just out flipped him on the turn, but a really good time for Grant," Garcia said. "He's 0.5 seconds off the school record and still a half-second drop (from his previous time). His 100 freestyle, he's going to rest a little more this week, so I'm expecting that to drop as well. He's seeded really good overall. I think he's sixth in the 50 and third in the 100 free so he's going to be right up there in the top eight, which is a good spot."
Hogan qualified for state in his first high school season, after swimming 5:08.7 in the 500 freestyle. In order to qualify for state, he needed to be in the top 16 times in Division 2, but he came in 17th in the 50 freestyle. Boh also came in 17th in the 100 freestyle.
Tucker qualified for state after taking third in the 100 butterfly and fourth in the 200 freestyle.
In total, Lakeland is sending six swimmers in nine events to the state meet on Friday in Madison.
"Those are pretty much the guys we thought. I would have really liked to see Brandon (qualify) in the 100 freestyle," Garcia said. "Liam dropped quite a bit of time in the 50 free so he was kind of shocked. I wasn't quite sure that he'd make it, but finishing 17th was higher than I expected. Brandon is probably the one I'd really like to have seen in the 100 free."
The WIAA Division 2 championships begin on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the UW Natatorium.
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com.