Rhinelander High School boys’ swim team members, from left, Russell Benoy, Thaddeus Heck, Nolan Francis, Devon Gaber, Joseph Heck and David King, pose with all-state certificates that were presented to them at the Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association Banquet in Hartford Sunday, May 5. The Hodag swimmers earned all-state honors by placing in the top six at the WIAA Division 2 state meet back in February. (submitted photos)
Rhinelander High School swimmers, from left, Maddie Quinn, Russell Benoy and Grace Heck, pose with their WISCA Academic All-State certificates at the Heck Family Community Pool Wednesday, May 8. WISCA Academic All-State honors are presented to seniors who have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher, have participated in at least two years of high school swimming and have received at least one varsity letter in swimming.
5/11/2019 7:32:00 AM Hodag swimmers receive all-state honors Six recognized for state meet performances, three earn all-academic honors
The Rhinelander High School boys' swim team was able to take one final curtain call last weekend in front of its peers.
Six Hodag swimmers received all-state honors for their performances at the WIAA Division 2 state meet in February. Russell Benoy from the RHS boys' swim team, along with girls' swim team members Grace Heck and Maddie Quinn, received academic all-state honors.
The awards were presented at the Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (WISCA) banquet Sunday, May 5 in Hartford.
"It was a really neat event," coach Jenny Heck said. "I don't know exactly how many swimmers were there, but I would guess 250 or so. There were a lot of swimmers. It was Division 1 and 2 boys' and girls' swimming. The guest speaker was Yuri (Suguiyama), the Badgers' (men's and women's swim) coach. That was a neat experience for the kids."
To earn all-state honors, swimmers had to reach the podium by finishing in the top six at the WIAA state meet. The Hodags did that on five separate occasions in February as they tied for third place overall at the D2 state meet.
Nolan Francis earned first-team all-state honors for his championship in the 100-yard backstroke. He and teammates Joseph Heck, Devon Gaber and Russell Benoy were on the first-team as members of the state champion 200-yard freestyle relay team.
Francis received second-team honors in the 100 butterfly and also as part of the 200 medley relay team with Thaddeus Heck, David King and Benoy. Benoy received honorable mention for his fourth-place finish in the 50 freestyle.
The Hodags got to take the stage during WISCA's Parade of Schools, and coach Heck had an opportunity to tell those in attendance a bit about the year's small but mighty Rhinelander squad.
"It gave us a little chance to explain who we are as Hodags," she said. "A lot of time we don't get a lot of attention from the southern part of the state and people don't really know about us because we're not swimming with them most of the year. The only time we swam against most of these guys was actually down at the state meet. It was a great opportunity to put faces with names and put us on the map and say, 'Hey, we belong here.'
"These teams would come up and say, 'You know, we've got 60 people on our team,' or this and that. We had 10 swimmers on our team and they all contributed points at the conference meet. We won sectionals. We were tied for third at state and I think it made some people realize that we really did some great things, who really didn't know about us."
Heck quipped the only thing the team forgot to do was bring the caged Hodag statue that has become synonymous with the RHS swim program up to the stage.
In addition to the all-state honors, coach Heck said Francis was one of three nominated for WISCA's Division 2 male swimmer of the year, an award won by Madison Edgewood junior Truman teDuits - who was a four-event champion at the D2 state meet.
"We sure were hoping for Nolan, but just to even be up there and to be nominated was an honor," she said.
WISCA presents its Academic All-State awards to seniors who have a 3.50 GPA or greater through seven high school semesters (or 10 trimesters). Those seniors must have been part of their high school swim team for at least two season, and earned at least one varsity letter.
Benoy, Quinn and Grace Heck were all four-year swimmers for the Hodags.
"It was a great honor for all these kids to be recognized," Jenny Heck said, adding that the program was an added bonus to an already successful season for the Hodag student-athletes who were honored.
"It was a great day of celebrating swimming in Wisconsin and I think we were all happy that we went," she said. "It takes a lot of time, hard work, dedication and commitment to be at this level. That means morning practices, offseason, consistent training and making good life choices. These athletes did just that."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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