1/10/2017 7:31:00 AM RHS swimmers 8th at Ashwaubenon
Eight was the number du jour Saturday for the Rhinelander High School boys' swim team. With only eight swimmers active, the Hodags placed eighth in the 12-team Jaguar Invitational at Ashwaubenon High School.
Rhinelander cracked the top 10 in six different events despite having not competed in 23 days. Coach Lindsay Byrka said the long layoff, due to the pertussis outbreak that canceled all extra-curricular activities over the holiday break, impacted some of her swimmers more than others.
"I think the kids that were able to get to the YMCA, or another facility, and train, they kind of held their ground and maybe even experienced a little drop, which was really good and that's great," she said. "But we also had some kids that maybe weren't able to get to the YMCA or not able to train or do anything. They either did really well in the shorter races or not so well in the longer races.
"It was definitely apparent that our team had some kids that could make it and some that couldn't. Everything lined up with what we expected. There were some good, breakout races. For these guys that have been training and working hard to drop time, that's good. That's what we were looking for."
Sophomore Nolan Francis, who was able to swim outside of the team structure during the break, had Rhinelander's two best individual finishes on the day. He was the only member of the team to get on a podium with a top-three finish, placing third in the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 6.73). He also finished fourth in the 100 backstroke (56.98) and was part of two relays that placed inside the top 10.
"That was a good race for him," Byrka said of Francis in the IM. "It was a little off his lifetime best, but it was his best of the season. I know he got some good training in. We kind of broke down that race. We saw where we could make up a little time and we're really happy with that finish and the way he swam it."
Regarding Francis' backstroke, Byrka added: "I think there were a couple of mistakes in that race, but I think he did some other things that were really great. To get a best time of the season is something we'll take from anybody."
Russell Benoy was the only other Hodag to finish in the top 10 in individual events, placing fifth in the 50 freestyle (24.01) and ninth in the 100 freestyle (53.89).
Benoy, Francis, Martin Hoger and Devon Gaber teamed up to take fourth in the 200 freestyle relay (1:37.65) while Hoger, Thaddeus Heck, Francis and Benoy finished seventh in the 200 medley relay (1:51.52).
"Russell, that was his lifetime best (in the 50) and I think there were a couple of other guys that had lifetime bests on that (200 free) relay," Byrka noted. "Martin Hoger finally cracked into the 24s. They're moving in the right direction and they're hanging where they need to be. We just need to hope this Christmas break didn't hurt them too much and they are able to have that big drop at the end of the season."
Bay Port won the meet with a whopping 532 points. The Hodags were the third best among four Great Northern Conference schools in attendance. Lakeland finished fourth, Shawano was sixth and Tomahawk finished 12th.
"To come in and swim in an event like this against some of the fastest D1 swimmers and some really powerful teams that have 20 or 30 guys, to come in with eight, we were pretty happy," Byrka noted.
The Hodags host Tomahawk Thursday in a GNC dual meet at the Heck Family Community Pool.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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