Boys' swimming and diving historically has been dominated by metro teams that train all year and compete on club teams.
Based on the talent of teams like Alexandria and the Brainerd Warriors the pendulum may be swinging to include outstate teams as contenders in Class AA.
Alexandria won last year's state title, the first outstate team since 1974 to be champion. Brainerd flexed its muscles last weekend by nearly upsetting the Cardinals in the Section 8AA meet, getting nosed out by two points, and breaking three school records.
"It's nice that schools outside 60 miles of the Twin Cities have a chance to go down there and compete," Brainerd coach John Zemke said. "Judging by the seed times Alexandria is favored to win it again this year.
"Swimming has made a little bit of a circle as far as outstate teams being able to compete with Twin Cities schools. This year there's a chance to make it through the quarterfinals to the consolation finals and finals. That makes it more exciting for parents and coaches."
Brainerd has qualified nine individuals in seven events for the Class AA meet Thursday through Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
Divers Shaun Kennedy and Jake Carson will lead off the Warriors' appearance at state. Each will perform eight dives Thursday when the field will be narrowed to 16 for Saturday's finals.
Kennedy was runner-up to 3-time section champion Garrett Ewers of St. Cloud Tech and Carson was third. Warriors diving coach Owen Trout said he thought from the beginning of the season Kennedy and Carson could qualify for state.
"Shaun experimented with two dives that had a much higher degree of difficulty," Trout said. "We opted for a little more conservative approach and I think that relaxed Shaun. We went with a dive that had a 2.2 degree of difficulty on his last dive. That changed the complexion of his list. We knew Shaun had a chance for second. For a while it looked like he might beat Ewers.
"We were a little more concerned with Jake even though he was second in the conference. He didn't have quite the same degree of difficulty within his list. But I was really happy. He's a senior. Last year he was fifth in the section, about one point from going to state.
"Both have improved from last year's section score, Shaun by 60-some points and Jake by 30-some points. Their 11-dive list is fairly substantial. They've got a shot possibly to make the top eight. That would qualify them for all-state honors."
Senior Paul Fitzpatrick has qualified for four state events. He was second in the section 200- and 100-yard freestyles and was a member of the second-place 200 free and 400 free relays. His time of 1:45.18 in the 200 free prelims set a school record. He will anchor both relays.
"In the 200 free Paul is seeded about fourth or fifth," Zemke said. "He was ninth last year at state. He should be seeded third or fourth in the 100 free."
Fitzpatrick, Mike Vesely, Pat O'Brien and Jim Clabo qualified for a runner-up finish in the section 200 free relay. Their time of 1:28.17 in the prelims was a school record.
In the 400 free relay Vesely, Ryan Scheeler and Clabo will join Fitzpatrick at state. Their time of 3:16.17 in the section finals was a school record.
The 200 medley relay of Ty Goeman, Karl Antolak, O'Brien and Vesely qualified for state by time standard.
Vesely will anchor the 200 medley relay, lead off the 200 free relay and 400 free relay as well as compete in the 50 free.
"Mike gets us out to a good start," Zemke said. "The strategy is to put guys in the order where you think they will perform best. Certainly, some guys are better leadoff people than others. Mike has done a great job all year leading off."
The Warriors' other state qualifier is Clabo in the 100 free.
"If a coach has kids who are shoo-ins for state sometimes they don't taper those kids for the section, they taper for state," Zemke said. "It appears in a lot of sections that was the case. The times are fast, but not so incredibly fast they will blow us out of the water. If we swim well all our guys have a great chance to make it to the second day."
Warriors state qualifiers
200 medley relay -- Ty Goeman, Karl Antolak, Pat O'Brien, Mike Vesely
200 freestyle -- Paul Fitzpatrick
50 freestyle -- Vesely
Diving -- Shaun Kennedy, Jake Carson
100 freestyle -- Fitzpatrick, Jim Clabo
200 freestyle relay -- Vesely, O'Brien, Clabo, Fitzpatrick
400 freestyle relay -- Vesely, Ryan Scheeler, Clabo, Fitzpatrick.
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