The Hutchinson boys swimming and diving team entered the Class A State Boys Swimming and Diving meet last week with competitors in every event. When they finished the season Saturday at the state finals, Tigersharks Matthew Olberg and Conner Hogan left Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center with medals around their necks.
Before the finals, however, the team received sad news. Jerry Carlson, the Tigersharks’ founder and the man for whom the Hutchinson Middle School pool is named, passed away Saturday morning.
Despite losing one of the team’s greatest influences and supporters, Hutchinson’s swimmers finished the year strong, as coach Carlson would have wanted.
“It was pretty emotional for the guys,” head coach Rory Fairbanks said. “I think they held their composure pretty well, swam about as well as to be expected.”
Olberg reached the state podium for eighth place in the 500 freestyle, and Hogan took seventh in the backstroke. For Hogan, the difference between seventh and fourth was less than a second, but he was happy with his results.
“It feels great,” Hogan said of winning a medal. “As a middle schooler, it’s definitely something I never thought I would do against these gigantic high schoolers. So it feels great.”
Hogan also swam in the consolation heat of the 100 freestyle and took 11th place.
Olberg, who qualified for state last year in the 200 and 500 freestyle races, the same events as this year, improved on both of his positions. He went from 13th place to eighth in the 500 freestyle and from 12th place to 11th in the 200 freestyle. Although he would have liked more in the finals, he was still pleased with his times. There was no doubt in his mind that he was going to swim on the final day of the year.
“I felt confident the whole year,” Olberg said. “I just kept on working hard and grinding.”
Noah Tague was the other Hutchinson swimmer at the finals. Tague took ninth place in the 200 IM and 13th place in the breaststroke.
Hutchinson also had state qualifiers compete in the prelims Thursday and Friday who didn’t make it to Saturday. Devon Bode took 18th place in the 50 freestyle and just missed the consolation finals, and Tristin Nelsen took 19th place in the butterfly to also miss consolation. Diver Alex Oestreich also took 21st place in the prelims Thursday and did not advance.
The ’Sharks also had their three relay teams move beyond the prelims Friday, including the 200 medley relay team that qualified for the championship heat of the finals. Before Saturday’s races, however, Fairbanks scratched all three relay teams for an undisclosed reason.
As a team, Hutchinson took 13th place overall while Breck/Blake won the championship.
As the ’Sharks close the book on their 2019-20 season, they’ll have much to build on for next year. Along with Wright County Conference and true team section titles, the boys earned the team’s first section championship in 11 years. With only two seniors on the team this year, the core of the group is expected to return next season for what could be another big year at Jerry Carlson Pool.
“All our younger guys are just going to be able to step up and swim even faster,” Tague said. “We’ll get a lot more depth.”
Class A State Boys Swimming and Diving (Feb. 29)
Team results: 1. Breck/Blake 342, 2. St. Thomas 232, 3. Sartell-St. Stephen 218, 4. Winona 210, 5. Alexandria 167... 13. Hutchinson 48
200 freestyle: 1. Jack Herczeg (Winona) 1:40.29, 11. Matthew Olberg 1:47.59
200 IM: 1. Andrew Karpenko (Minnehaha Academy) 1:48.92, 9. Noah Tague 2:01.66
50 freestyle: 1. Crosby (Breck/Blake) 20.31, 18. Devon Bode 23.08
Diving: 21. 1. Storm Opdahl (Chisago Lake) 470.15, Alex Oestreich
100 butterfly: 1. Grant Wolner (Winona) 50.02, 19. Tristin Nelsen 56.28
100 freestyle: 1. Jack Herczeg (Winona) 44.63, 11. Conner Hogan 49.14
500 freestyle: 1. Nico Losinski (Simley) 4:43.61, 8. Olberg 4:58.20
100 backstroke: 1. Charlie Crosby (Breck/Blake) 48.51, 7. Hogan 54.28
100 breaststroke: 1. Andrew Karpenko (Minnehaha) 54.22, 13. Noah Tague 1:02:03