Swimming: Setting the bar extremely high
After a standout 2008-09 season, the Rosemount boys swimming and diving team had a lot to live up to entering this season.
At the beginning of the season, Irish coach Jim Ertl wasn't sure how to judge his team. He knew they would be strong, but also knew the competition would be equally tough.
With several key swimmers and divers stepping forward this year, Rosemount somehow managed to meet expectations.
The bar has been raised for future Irish teams.
"You take a look back," Ertl said. "That's two years straight of undefeated seasons and winning conference titles and strong section titles.
"Being that, we don't take it for granted. To tell the truth, it's been pretty amazing. We've had some really close meets that we've had to pull out in the last couple of years and the boys got every one of them."
The Irish almost equaled their impressive season of a year ago. Rosemount went 10-0 in the Lake Conference to win its second consecutive conference crown. The Irish have won the True Team and season-ending section titles the past two seasons.
This season, they placed third at the True Team state meet and fifth in the Class 2A state meet at the end of this season.
"The depth thing just came along and we had some freshman guys joining us later at the True Team and almost every kid got involved at one point or another at a level where we really had to count on them," Ertl said. "It will be difficult for the team to keep the level we've been at the last three or four years. That's really up there. We're looking at who's graduated the past couple years. There's pretty amazing talent in that group."
Seniors Devon Meeks and Max Hubbard led the way this season after standout careers for the Irish. Both shared the team's most valuable swimmer award.
Meeks, Hubbard, senior Tony Spiel, senior David Officer, sophomore Jacob Stern, sophomore Luke Dowell, sophomore Braden McCormack, and sophomore Connor Manning were named all-conference.
Senior Michael Young, juniors David Baker and Alex Roberts and sophomores Nick Jeffrey and Matthew McCormack were all-conference honorable mention.
The most improved swimmer award was shared by Manning and Braden McCormack.
Yet, so many swimmers and divers improved throughout the award was highly contested and could have gone to a number of individuals.
Sophomore Jim Peterson won the most improved diver award. Jacob Stern was the hardest worker winner and ninth-grader Sheldon Hatlen was the team's rookie of the year.
Two school records also fell this season, with Meeks setting the Irish mark in the 100-yard backstroke in 49.83 seconds, while placing second at the state meet. Meeks also won the state title in the 50 freestyle.
Hubbard, Manning, Dowell, and Meeks combined to swim a 1 minute, 25.08 second time in the 200 freestyle relay at the state meet, placing second overall.
Stern went a 1:00.09 in the 100 breaststroke at state, winning the "B" final and placing second on the school's all-time list in the event. Only his brother, David Stern, owns a better time, set last season in David's senior year.
"It was a good team," Ertl said. "They stayed focused pretty well. They were pretty low key. But when it came time to race, they stepped up."