Lakers hit apex after six years of building
For the last six years, the Detroit Lakes boys' swimming and diving team has been chugging up the mountain of successful at a relatively good pace.
The Lakers finally reached their destination last weekend with their best showing at the state meet, which included their first DL native state championship, a silver and a bronze for the 400-freestyle relay team.
But the state meet was just the exclamation point on one of the most successful seasons in DL's history, as the Lakers went a perfect 12-0 in dual/triangular meets, won the Mid-State Conference and took runner-up finishes in both the section True Team and the Section 3-1A meets.
And it all started with a pair of seventh graders in Rian Heimark's first year as DL's head coach.
"This season was six years in the making," Heimark said. "I wouldn't have asked for any other way for how this season ended.
"It was perfect."
The senior group that Heimark coached this year has been the heart and soul of the team for the last several years.
Quillan Oak blossomed into one of the best ever to take to the Laker waters, with a year in which he reached the apex with his 100-yard breaststroke state championship, a second in the 200-freestyle and the anchor of the third-place 400-freestyle relay team.
It was Oak and fellow senior teammate Cody Johnson who started out with Heimark six years ago. Brandon Olson became a varsity swimmer the next year, with Travis King coming in a year later.
The class rose from two seniors six years ago, to seven on this year's squad.
And the team's numbers are steadily progressing up, with seven seventh graders out this past season.
"We were drawing good numbers in the past because kids learned that swimming is fun," Heimark said. "But now we are drawing numbers not only because it's fun, but because of what can be accomplished."
The season started out with lofty expectations by the team and with each passing week, another goal was reached, albeit by personal-best times or another trophy in the case.
The Lakers won their third-straight Mid-State Conference title, while finishing second in the section True Team, which meant another trip to the state True Team inside the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center.
That led into the Section 3-1A meet, where the Lakers qualified five different swimmers in eight events.
In other words, the season was highlighted by team success, as well as individual goals met.
With Oak's showing, along with an eighth-place finish by the 200-medley relay team, DL finished in the top 10 in state, taking eighth place at the state meet.
Both state relay teams were made up of the same foursome -- Oak, Olson, King and junior Carter Krengel.
With seven seniors departing, there will be some gaping holes to fill for next year's Laker squad.
The Lakers also have a slew of young divers who all progressed well under diving coach Bobbi Jo Koons.
But just because this past season was one for the ages, doesn't mean the DL train has reached its final destination.
Heimark is expecting more.
"We will have more types of these seasons in the future, because of the kids who are working with me," the DL coach said. "It doesn't mean these things which we accomplished this year can't be done again.
"We have talent coming back, which was in the shadows because of what this year's seniors were doing."
Heimark isn't expecting another six-year climb, instead he is hoping this team's success will only breed near-future success.