The Central Lakes Conference meet apparently brings out the best in Brainerd's Tyler Schneider.
As an eighth-grader he was seeded last and virtually came out of nowhere to finish fourth in the 500-yard freestyle in the CLC meet at 5:29.68.
This year the freshman went into last weekend's CLC meet as the No. 1 seed and left no doubt who deserved that ranking as he won with a career-best 5:16.54.
"He started swimming with the varsity about halfway through last year," Warriors coach John Zemke said. "At sections, he made the consolation finals, and had a decent time.
"As I look back at last year the conference was really the first meet where all of a sudden he stepped up and started scoring varsity points.
"This year he was real consistent in the 500. It's been him and (Michael) Ruen back and forth, 1-2, in the 500 free. He definitely took a nice step up (Saturday)."
Schneider had his hands full in the CLC 500, beating Willmar's Andy Johnson by 24/100ths of a second for the title.
Events: 500 free, 200 free
Weight: 160 pounds
Career highlight: Winning conference championship
Grade-point average: 3.0
Favorite subject: Math
Favorite food: Bacon
Favorite movie: "Dark Knight"
Athlete he admires: His brother, Zach Schneider
Parents: Darrel and Deb Schneider
"I knew I was winning, but I had no idea what my time was," he said. "I felt really fast in the water. I felt like (Johnson) was pushing me a great deal. I really wanted to win."
Zemke alerted Schneider about Johnson's ability.
"He hadn't swam the 500 many times this year," Zemke said of Johnson. "I told Tyler to get out and build a lead because this kid is a pretty good sprinter. (Johnson) came on at the end. Tyler had about a body length lead and the guy tracked him down."
As the No. 1 seed, Schneider thought he had a legitimate shot to win the 500 title.
"I thought the competition would be fierce, but I didn't know," he said. "I had a feeling I would do pretty well."
Zemke believes Schneider can handle expectations and has the perfect mental makeup to be a successful swimmer.
"Going into the conference meet we were a little surprised with the seed he had," Zemke said. "We thought maybe he would be top five. When he showed up No. 1 he definitely handled it well.
"He handles pressure well. He's pretty calm, and has an even keel, if you watch him in practice and meets. Nothing seems to shake him too much."
Schneider also competed in the CLC 200 free, finishing fifth at 1:56.96, another career best.
He has nine individual wins this season and has scored 264.5 team points. Schneider had also been swimming the 400 free and 200 free relays during the dual meet season but was kept out of both in the CLC meet to stay fresh, a strategy that likely will continue in the section meet Feb. 27-28.
"Usually, I swim the 200 relay after the 500," Schneider said. "Just knowing I don't have to save anything for the 200 free relay helps a lot."
Zemke said Schneider is consistent and has the stamina to swim distance events.
"Sometimes after the 500 you just get worn out," Zemke said. "He seems to keep the same pace over and over and over. In the 500 his splits are consistently 32, 31, 31, 32."
Other notable efforts:
• Taryn Ruttger and Andrea Cibuzar, Alpine skiing, placed 22nd and 25th in the state meet to earn all-state honors.
• Andrew Goll, Jake Larson, Britton Murrey, Keenan Goodrich, Mike Ruen, Alek Rudstrom and Jared Anderson, swimming and diving, earned all-conference honors.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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