The other programs in the Classic 8/Greater Metro Conference were no match for Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial’s boys swimming team Jan. 28, and neither was history.
The Blackshirts stacked up four conference records and blew away the field with 603 points in the annual conference meet, more than 100 ahead of second-place Arrowhead (496). With the biggest meets of the year ahead, the No. 1 team in the state now has its eyes on snapping Madison Memorial’s run of six consecutive state championships — dating back to the last time South/CMH won the state crown in 2010.
It was the program's first conference title since 1988.
"We weren't really out to break records," South coach Blaine Carlson said. "The guys are just really excited about racing and really focused and motivated. We've been looking forward to that meet and kind of the big three (meets) at the end of the season (including sectional and state), excited to get in and swim at our own pool, race and see where they're at. ... I think it's an advantage to not have to go three weekends in a row and swim at a really high-level meet. A lot of emotion goes into that meet, and now we have a chance to regroup and refocus."
South will compete in its own sectional in two weekends, on Feb. 11, with most other conferences holding their league meets over the upcoming weekend.
South/Catholic Memorial took sixth place at the state meet last year and brings back all nine swimmers who appeared at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium in Madison, with the addition of top-level freshmen helping the cause. Both its 200 and 400 freestyle relays own the top times in the state this season, and seven more entrants are among the top five across Wisconsin.
Relays break 15-year marks
Not surprisingly, the league relay records were all put out to pasture in the South pool. Freshmen Jacob Carlson and Caleb Blischke teamed with seniors Nathan Carlson and Jeremy Nagy to win the medley in 1:36.80, ahead of the 15-year old record of 1:37.29 set by Arrowhead. It’s currently the second-fastest time in the state.
"Traditionally, our weakness has been getting off to a good start; that's why i thought it was so important for the medley relay to swim the way they did to get everything rolling," Blaine Carlson said.
Carlson's senior son, Nathan, who swims the butterfly leg of the relay, saw it similarly.
"The medley always kind of helps set the tone for the meet, and we've had meets where that relay doesn't perform as well, and we're off to a slow start," Nathan said. "It really takes until after the 50; that's when we really start to pick up speed."
Having Nathan's freshman brother on the backstroke leg of the medley also helped, along with Blischke's breaststroke. Both are also key components of the free relays.
Nearly a full second got shaved off the 200 free mark when junior Conrad Farrell, Jacob Carlson, junior John Acevedo and Nagy swam 1:26.54, better than Arrowhead’s 1:27.53 from 2012.
In the 400 free, Farrell, Acevedo, Nathan Carlson and Blischke crushed the old standard of 3:12.28, also set by Arrowhead in 2002, with a time of 3:10.75.
"Of all the relays, I thought the 400 free relay would be the easiest one for us to break (the record)," Blaine said. "We've gone 3:12 a bunch of times, and it's nice to see the medley relay come together. We've got three pretty solid relays; it's a matter of figuring out who goes where. We have some versatility. What we swam this weekend is not necessarily what we'll swim at the end of the year. It's exciting to see what other teams do at the conference meets this weekend."
The republished record book didn’t stop in the multiswimmer events. Acevedo now holds the second-fastest time in the state in the 200 free relay with 1:41.54, more than a second better than second place at the Classic 8 meet and six-hundredths of a second faster than the old Classic 8 record 1:41.60 of Michael Hamm of Waukesha West in 2002.
Total team effort
Even when records weren’t being set, South was winning titles, claiming nine of the 12 events overall. Blischke won the 200 individual medley in 1:58.80, Nathan Carlson won the butterfly in 51.58, Jacob Carlson claimed the backstroke in 52.18, Acevedo took the 500 free in 4:39.40, and Farrell won the 100 free in 47.24.
Acevedo (500 free), Nathan Carlson (butterfly) and Farrell (100 free) all have the third-fastest times in the state, while Jacob Carlson and Nathan Carlson sit fourth and fifth in the backstroke.
Farrell, Carlson, Acevedo and Sam Wade took fourth last year in the 400-yard freestyle relay at the state meet. Acevedo added sixth in the 500 free, Farrell took eighth in the 50 free, and Carlson took ninth in the 200 free and 10th in the butterfly. Others on the team who appeared at state last year are Andrew Derzay, Ben Mee, Gabe Castillo and Connor Clemetson. Freshman Nolan Scanlan added two top-10 finishes at the conference meet, as well.
"I don't want to say it was pressure at all; mostly everyone on the team was really excited to start having these new guys come in and fill some spots where we've been struggling in the past," Nathan said. "We've all been paying attention to our own swims and trying to do the best we can. It's also kind of motivation for ourselves. This is the best team we've had in a while."
Madison Memorial has won the last six state titles and 10 of the last 12, Madison West has been second the past four years. While Memorial graduated a boatload of seniors off last year’s team, West returns a fair amount, though Memorial was second to South/CMH in the most recent coaches poll.
Blaine Carlson credited several swimmers competing for spots on the sectional team, including Erik Gerum, Castillo, Davison Krajcik, Blake Baertlein and Nick Wiedenhoeft.
Even when the South girls program went on a run of three straight state titles, it only brought home the conference title once. The boys program didn't achieve the milestone even with back-to-back top-two finishes at state in 2010 and 2011.
"We didn't sacrifice anything training (schedule)-wise to do it, so the kids put on a good suit, but not their best suit," Carlson said. "We're real excited to see what they can do at the end of the year. They're fit and motivated and hungry."