HIBBING — As far as Hibbing High School boys swimming coach Mike Veneziano is concerned, the sky’s the limit for William Stenson III.
The Bluejacket junior placed eighth in the state meet in the 100 butterfly last year, then he improved on that this season with a fourth-place finish.
Stenson also helped two Hibbing relays place in the top eight, and the other one was ninth as the Bluejackets had their best finish at the meet, placing ninth with 90 points.
For those efforts, Stenson III has been named the Mesabi Daily News, Hibbing Daily Tribune and Grand Rapids Herald Review Boys Swimmer of the Year.
Veneziano couldn’t be more pleased with the way Stenson has developed since his time here as a seventh-grader.
“The vast majority of what he has done is in two categories,” Veneziano said. “No. 1, he’s been blessed with a lot of talent, and No. 2, he has used that talent and has worked excessively with it.
“When you take talent and you’re also willing to work hard and not just rest on your ability, actually do something with it, most people are highly successful with that recipe.”
After garnering all-state honors last year, Stenson wasn’t about to rest on his laurels.
“I wanted to get better, and see what I could do,” Stenson said. “I wanted to see how much better I could do, and I wanted to help bring more relays to state and see where we went from there.
“I had to work as hard as I could all summer and all season after that. It’s hard to get there.”
Stenson hit the dry-land training hard, and he got in the pool as much as he could in the offseason.
“I took swimming more seriously, especially during captain’s practices and regular practices, too,” Stenson said. “I tried to push myself harder every day than I thought I could do. I kept pushing myself beyond my limits.
“It was rough, but at the end of the day, you feel good about yourself knowing you put in the work, and knowing I was getting the job done.”
Even though Stenson swims the hardest event in a meet, according to Veneziano, he makes it look easy.
He bested Sam Iozzo’s record times in the 100 butterfly, which wasn’t an easy thing to do.
“For him to come out fourth in the state, that was remarkable, but he was doing it with times we’ve never seen anybody in our program quite do,” Veneziano said. “Sam was a state champ in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 fly.
“He’s eclipsed Sam’s records in the fly. This is the toughest stroke to swim, but he makes it look like he’s walking across a room. He makes something difficult look easy.”
Even Stenson is amazed at things he’s done.
“I thought that was a good challenge,” Stenson said. “Sam did some good things to push me, then I pushed myself harder every day. Those (records) were a good thing to pass. Next year, I have to beat my own times.”
The other thing Stenson did this season was sacrifice his own personal gain for the betterment of the team.
Stenson was not only swimming in the butterfly, but he also competed in the 200 individual medley.
About midway through the regular season, the decision was made to take him out of the individual medley at sections and put him in all three relays.
“You have to look at the bigger picture, a little bit broader perspective as to what you’re doing,” Veneziano said. “He was totally accepting of the idea because he could see the bigger picture for the team and not just himself. That’s a character-driven person.
“For him, it’s simply forgetting about the place and continuing to individually improve, and contribute to your team to the best of your ability, which he has done.”
Stenson never thought twice about the move.
“It was different,” Stenson said. “I wasn’t against it, and in the end, it turned out great. It was a smart move. It was a good choice. I wouldn’t have placed any higher in the individual medley. There’s always next year.”
Not even Veneziano knows what’s in store for next season. Staying in the butterfly is probably a no-brainer, but what if Stenson moved to the 50 freestyle, the one event which produced a champion three years ago?
“The possibilities are wide open,” Veneziano said. “Just because he can do the IM, I’m not going to pigeonhole him in it. We might see him return to that event, or I might retool and convert him into something else.
“He also had the fastest breaststroke time on the team throughout the course of the season. He can do all four strokes. He can do them, and he can do them fast.”
Joining Stenson on the all-area team are his teammates Andrew Hoppe, Cooper Emerson, Luke Pocquette and Chance McCormack; Gunnar George, Owen Engel, Cameron Johnson, Andrew Bird, Aiden Hecimovich, Nathan Spiering, Logan Harrison, Robert Kelson and Lief Sundquist of Virginia; Ben Bartholomew, Michael Fitch, Jake Jacobson, Austin Morrissey, Xander Oglivie, Aydin Aultman, Brett Skyles, Devin Klimek and Nate Huju of Grand Rapids; Zach Quirk of Chisholm; and Logan Schroeder and Jamie Hill of Mesabi East.