Boys’ swimming more than ready to take state title in upcoming championship tournament

Skyler Froese

After a major upset over defending state champions, Rockhurst, at the CoMo invitational, the Bruins are ready to face the Hawklets once again but this time at the state tournament.
The team will race at the swimming MSHSAA State championship, which begins at 3 p.m. on Nov. 6 in St. Peters, Missouri.
Assistant swim coach Zach Mertens believes this meet will be the most competitive in years. In the past year, the top 50-yard freestyle time has quickened by a second, and Mertens said that in a sport where winners are decided by hundredths of a second, this time drop is a major sign of a more competitive field.
“We’re obviously not the only fast team in the state. Teams like Rockhurst, Cape Girardeau and Eureka are all competing for first place,” sophomore Ryan Gilbert said. “While we’re currently the top ranked, there’s always the chance they might out-swim us.”
Both Mertens and Gilbert have faith in the team’s relays. RBHS currently has the best time in Missouri for the 400-yard freestyle relay at 3:14.85. The team has 11 top eight rankings in the state in some of the twelve events swam at state.
Mertens also believes the team’s depth in especially the longer freestyle such as the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle events will help score the team points at state.
“I think we have a really good chance at winning because last year we got third and we didn’t have some of our best swimmers,” senior Alex Tschopp said. “With everyone who swam last year improving over the past year and more fast swimmers, I think we have a really good chance.”
Rockhurst’s loss of some of their highest point winners and the replacement of the Hawklets’ head coach further bolstered the Bruins’ confidence. Even with this advantage, Tschopp reckons that a victory in his signature event, the 200-yard freestyle, will take a state record and the aid of a top of the line swimsuit made by Speedo called a LZR.
“I have one really strong competitor that I raced at CoMo, and it will be really close between me and him. I’ll hopefully at least get second,” Tschopp said. “He probably would have beaten the state record time if he would have worn a LZR at CoMo. It might take a state record or a little faster to beat him.”
Despite these challenges, Tschopp and Gilbert are optimistic. Mertens attributes the team’s outlook to not only their success at meets this season, but also the leadership and intensity that has been present in the practices leading up to state.
Gilbert said this competitive and supportive team atmosphere is what will give the team an edge in their races; his coach agrees.
Mertens, like any coach, wants the team to perform well and said that they are capable of it; but he also has goals for his boys beyond a trophy.
“The team always created their own goals of winning state and breaking records,” Mertens said. “But as coaches we want the team to compete as a team for the team.”