It was a very successful Section 6A meet for the Grand Rapids boys swimming and diving team as the Thunderhawks qualified five individuals and a relay team for the state meet. Grand Rapids was host to the section meet Saturday at the Robert J. Elkington Middle School pool and came away with a second place finish as a team, trailing Hibbing.
Michael Fitch and Jake Jacobson both were section champs for the Thunderhawks. Fitch won the 500-yard freestyle and Jacobson the 100-yard breaststroke. Fitch also had a runner-up finish in the 200-yard freestyle and Jacobson was second in the 200-yard IM to earn state berths in the events.
Additional individual qualifiers with third place finishes were Austin Morrissey in the 200 IM, Ben Bartholomew in the 100-yard freestyle and Alex Nater in the 1-meter diving event.
The 400-yard freestyle relay team of Bartholomew, Andy Fox, Morrissey and Jacobson qualified with a second place finish.
The progress has been steady this season for the Thunderhawks and it reflected in their performances Saturday. A year ago, Grand Rapids finished fifth as a team with a score of 198. This year the Thunderhawks put up 346 points.
Grand Rapids coach Melissa Rauzi said the team has put in the work all season so it was nice to see it pay off in sections.
“There were some tough races,” she said. “They had to swim their best. They worked hard all season and are very dedicated to one another.”
In the meet’s second event, Fitch, a sophomore, put together his best performance in the 200 freestyle. His finals time of 1:54.33 was nearly two seconds faster than his prelim time. He took even more time off to win the 500 freestyle, coming in at 5:10.28, an improvement of five seconds over his prelim time and was five seconds clear of second place.
Rauzi said once Fitch broke the six-minute mark last season, he knew this was an event he could excel in.
“Last year when he broke six minutes he knew he had a lot of endurance power so he started really pushing himself,” she said. “He came into the season and just went from there.”
Jacobson, a junior, also had a significant improvement in the 100 breaststroke as he won the event in 1:02.08, which was a second and a half in front of second place. Jacobson took nearly five seconds off his 200 IM time in the finals to finish second in 2:07.76.
“He’s very mentally tough, what Jake wants he’s going to go after,” Rauzi said. “He’s never done the 200 IM and this year looking at where he could go to state we decided to switch things up.”
Morrissey, a sophomore, also tapered well in the 200 IM for the third place finish in 2:09.20, which narrowly edged International Falls’ Will Serrano by half a second.
“That was a really good tapered race for them,” Rauzi said. “I did not expect the times they got.”
For Bartholomew, who qualified for state in the 200 freestyle last year as a freshman, it was a struggle to be healthy enough to even compete as he battled ongoing knee issues.
Rauzi said he worked through the pain late in the season and it resulted in his best race in the 100 freestyle final with a time of 50.81.
“He was very unselfish about his pain level,” she said. “He had a ton of pain at the last meet before going into sections and he still went in and swam as hard as he could because he wanted to prove he was worthy for the section team. He definitely came through for us.”
In the 1-meter diving event, Rauzi said Nater, a senior, was able to focus for the final three dives to deliver consistent performances, securing a third place score of 392.40.
“Alex is a little more carefree, but he seems to always do what he needs to do,” she said.
The meet’s final event, the 400-yard freestyle, provided its challenges as well. With Jacobson just finishing up the breaststroke race, he turned around to swim the final leg of the relay. The team swam to a time of 3:26.28, which edged Chisholm by nine hundredths of second to qualify.
“That last relay was really important for them because that would get Andy (to state) and they knew I would put Kody (Bissonette) as an alternate,” Rauzi said. “We had a little chat, I said ‘I know Jake you’re going to be tired.’ He had literally went from winning the breaststroke, stepping out for the medal ceremony and he had to get in and swim his best.”
The state meet is held at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center in Minneapolis Thursday through Saturday.
Section 6A Meet
Team Scores: 1. Hibbing 451; 2. Grand Rapids 346; 3. Virginia 274; 4. Eveleth-Gilbert 236; 5. Chisholm 234; 6. Mesabi East 203; 7. Chisago Lakes Area 193; 8. International Falls 158; 9. Proctor 56.
200-yard medley relay: 1. H, 1:40.40; 2. CH, 1:42.78; 3. EG, 1:44.21; 4. GR, Austin Morrissey, Jake Jacobson, Kody Bissonette, Devin Klimek, 1:44.46.
200-yard freestyle: 1. Andrew Bird, V, 1:52.19; 2. Michael Fitch, GR, 1:54.33; 3. Cade Klimek, CH, 1:55.08; 10. Andy Fox, GR, 1:59.89; 13. Brett Skyles, GR, 2:01.64.
200-yard IM: 1. William Stenson, H, 2:02.60; 2. Jacobson, GR, 2:07.76; 3. Morrissey, GR, 2:09.20.
50-yard freestyle: 1. Joe Iozzo, H, 22.66; 2. Mark Borland, H, 22.73; 3. Addison Clarin, CL, 22.84; 8. Bissonette, GR, 24.27; 12. Klimek, GR, 24.45; 13. Nate Huju, GR, 24.61.
1-meter diving: 1. Riley Pernat, H, 436.50; 2. Storm Opdahl, CL, 435.95; 3. Alex Nater, GR, 392.40; 4. James Nord, CL, 386.15; 7. Aydin Aultman, GR, 276.85; 10. Dane Kennedy, GR, 263.70; 13. Dylan Stein, GR, 188.50.
100-yard butterfly: 1. Stenson, H, 52.57; 2. Iozzo, H, 54.19; 3. Jacob Shimmin, ME, 59.86; 6. Bissonette, GR, 1:02.23; 14. Matthew Stene, GR, 1:07.14; 15. Xander Ogilvie, GR, 1:07.44.
100-yard freestyle: 1. Bird, V, 49.82; 2. Andrew Hoppe, H, 50.61; 3. Ben Bartholomew, GR, 50.81; 8. Andy Fox, GR, 53.44; 14. Huju, GR, 55.53.
500-yard freestyle: 1. Fitch, GR, 5:10.28; 2. Cameron Johnson, V, 5:15.02; 3. Logan Harrison, V, 5:17.79; 11. Skyles, GR, 5:38.90; 13. Jager McLynn, GR, 5:48.29; 16. Sam Reiten, GR, 5:56.84.
200-yard freestyle relay: 1. H, 1:30.83; 2. CH, 1:32.36; 3. V, 1:33.79; 4. GR, Bartholomew, Fox, Huju, Bissonette, 1:34.95.
100-yard backstroke: 1. Logan Schroeder, ME, 56.46; 2. Clarin, CL, 58.03; 3. Nick Jordan, CH, 58.20; 5. Morrissey, GR, 59.14; 9. Alex Morse, GR, 1:04.17.
100-yard breaststroke: 1. Jacobson, GR, 1:02.08; 2. Jack Bryan, CH, 1:03.39; 3. Robbie Licari, EG, 1:03.53; 10. Andrew Palik, GR, 1:11.30; 14. Will Silvis, GR, 1:14.39.
400-yard freestyle: 1. H, 3:25.44; 2. GR, Bartholomew, Fox, Morrissey, Jacobson, 3:26.28; 3. CH, 3:26.37.