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Swimming: Irish swim to fifth

The Irish boys swim team took fifth at the state meet.

The Rosemount boys swimming team entered last week's Class 2A state swimming meet with weighty expectations.

There were expectations built on last year's finish when the Irish finished fourth as a team. They won two relays, setting a state record in the 200-yard medley relay.

Rosemount also had to deal with expectations set this year after an unexpected breakthrough by several inexperienced swimmers. The Irish went undefeated in the Lake Conference and then won the section meet despite coach Jim Ertl's belief that the schedule would be much tougher this season for his younger athletes.

Dealing with the big expectations, Ertl and his swimmers had an important decision to make -- try to reclaim their relay titles or push for the best team finish overall.

One choice would certainly make the other much tougher to accomplish.

In the end, the Irish tried to capture the relay events, sacrificing the team finish.

"On one hand we were very fast, but we were also just a little off," Ertl said. "If we really wanted to take charge of third place (as a team) we could have had a chance. We had to balance the relays out. Either way, it's very difficult to have a chance to win.

"As a team we decided to go after the relays and it compromises our positions a little bit. That's kind of what we did."

Rosemount almost pulled off the repeat, but ended up placing third in the medley relay and second in the 200 freestyle relay. As a team, the Irish placed fifth with 150.5 points.

Edina was a runaway winner for the team title with 307 points. Minnetonka placed second with 216.5 points and Cretin-Derham Hall finished third with 185 points.

"It's a little bit easier being the underdog," Ertl said. "After you're at the top, you definitely have everyone going after you."

Devon Meeks, Jacob Stern, Tony Spiel, and Max Hubbard combined to swim a 1 minute, 36.03 second time in the 200 medley relay. Cretin-Derham Hall won with a time of 1:35.76.

Hubbard, Conor Manning, Luke Dowell and Meeks then placed second in the 200 freestyle relay, swimming a 1:25.08, second only to Edina's 1:24.94.

Rosemount qualified for state in each of the three relays, and came through in 14th in the 400 freestyle relay. Manning, Spiel, Nick Jeffrey and Michael Young combined to finish in 3:20.30.

"We had some guys swim varsity that weren't state ranked or anything like that, and when you can have them swim at state it is pretty awesome," Ertl said. "It's a huge step up for any kid to go to the state level and compete at the highest level. It's tough and we had quite a few kids able to step up and do that."

Meeks came back and defended his individual title in the 50 freestyle. He touched the wall in 20.84 seconds. Hubbard placed fifth in the event in 21.61 seconds.

David Officer was 16th in the 100 butterfly. Hubbard was seventh in the 100 freestyle after placing eighth a year ago.

Meeks finished second in the 100 backstroke in 49.83 seconds. Braden McCormack placed third in the "B" final in 54.56.

Stern returned in the 100 breaststroke and won the "B" final in 1:00.09 for ninth place overall.

A few days after the meet, Ertl was still a bit disappointed. However, the longtime coach knows he will be able to look back in a few weeks and truly appreciate what his team was able to accomplish.

This year's team only scored 4.5 points fewer at the state meet than last year's more experienced squad managed. The Irish placed fourth a year ago with 155 points.

"We still swam well," Ertl said of this year's effort at state. "We just didn't have that peak performance. When you look back at the season, you like that you won the conference championship. That's huge. You were section champs. Our section was as tough as nails. We were undefeated in duals and we were still swimming hard. That's a good thing.

"It will show more appreciation as you get separation. This was as good of a team as I've had. We had really quality kids and some of them have come along so far this year. You can't ask for any more than that."