Lakers ready to make splash at State swim and dive meet
DETROIT LAKES - This time around, no flu bug was going to hold freshman Quillan Oak back from qualifying for the Class 1A state swimming and diving meet.
The last two years, illness affected the Detroit Lakes swimming phenom, but this year, it wasn't a factor and Oak will be making his first appearance in the state meet in two events.
He will be joined by diving teammate sophomore Jon Melgaard, who will be making his second trip to the state diving meet.
The Class 1A state meet will be held Thursday-Saturday inside the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Melgaard dives Thursday at noon, while Oak will swim his prelims Friday at noon.
The finals will be Saturday at noon, as well.
But for both, expect bigger and better things at the state meet after each had good -- but not spectacular -- Section 3-1A meet.
Oak finished in third place in each of the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke, qualifying for state by bettering the state cut.
For Melgaard, he defends his section diving championship, while extending his undefeated streak this season by winning with a score of 344.15.
"I'm hoping to drop one to two seconds off my 200 IM time (at state) and get under one minute in the breaststroke," Oak said, who raced for a 2:04.12 in the 200 IM and a 1:02.65 in the breaststroke.
The reason Oak is confident, and rightfully so, is he didn't shave or taper for the section meet, where as many of the state entrants have.
Tapering means cutting off yards during practice to go into a meet fresh. For Oak, he was still racing tired and will have a fresh body after tapering for the state meet.
That showed in sections, where Park Rapids Bryce Klasen -- a swimmer Oak had beat twice this year -- cut three seconds off his time to take second, behind highly-ranked Mike Hurley of Fergus Falls.
"Klasen had a great taper and great race, while Quillan wasn't tapered," said DL head coach Rian Heimark. "Quillan was racing with tired legs and it showed."
Despite the top two securing spots in state, Oak beat the state cut by 3.03 seconds to earn his rightful spot, as well.
"I was tired, but I figured I could beat the cut by around three seconds," Oak said. "But I was relieved to make state."
He gained some valuable momentum earlier in the section finals -- which were held Friday and Saturday in Bemidji -- when he made state in the 200 IM.
"I wanted to take my butterfly and backstroke harder and that helped me," Oak said of his 200 IM.
Heimark said Oak had a tough preliminary race in each of his events, but Oak came out strong in the finals.
"Friday he wasn't as fast and he was concerned he wasn't going to get his fastest times in the finals," Heimark added. "Although his breaststroke wasn't his fastest time, I know he can go faster at state, just because of his taper."
Oak's goals at state will be to place in the top eight in the 200 IM, while capturing a top four spot in the breaststroke.
He currently has the fifth fastest time heading into state, but how many swimmers tapered for sections remains to be seen.
"I'm going to go out during the preliminaries and not wear my best (swimming) suit and get some good rest Friday night," Oak said. "I've been in the (U of M) pool before, so that shouldn't be a factor, either. Saturday in the finals will be big, but I can't let myself get too excited and lose focus."
For Melgaard, his trip to state last year will loom large in his performance his second time around.
Just getting the feel for the board took Melgaard a full day last year, so this week, that shouldn't be as big a problem.
"It's a soft board and all boards are different," Melgaard said. "Last year it took me the preliminaries to get a feel for it. But I was in a camp there last summer and in state (last year), so I should be fine."
Melgaard is also looking to land a top five spot and he has a good chance to do so after entering the state with the third highest score from sections.
If Melgaard even ranks in the top 10, he'll have the highest finish in state for a Laker diver.
His diving coach, Bobbi Koons, also has had a productive year.
She won the Section Diving Coach of the Year during the girls' fall season and now makes the complete sweep after Koons earned the same honor for the boys' season.
Koons is also the Perham diving coach and between the two schools, five of her six divers were in the section finals.
"I was very humbled by the honor, since I haven't been a coach in the section for very long," Koons said. "For Jon, his experience last year will go a long ways. He won't have to spend that extra time to get a feel for the board."
The keys for Melgaard at state will be to hit all his voluntary dives -- the easiest of difficulties -- and be consistent with his more difficult optionals.
The Lakers overall as a team has given a bright flash of hope for the future with a solid section performance.
DL finished sixth out of 12 teams in the section, with the majority of Lakers qualifying for the finals and will be back next year.
All five teams which finished in front of DL were ranked in the state during the season at some time or another.
"The guys swam excellent Friday," Heimark said. "Everyone had personal-best times. Brandon Olson dropped eight seconds off his 500 freestyle time and missed the state cut by two seconds.
"We just didn't have our legs for Saturday's finals."
Section 3-1A boys' swimming and diving meet, Friday-Saturday, Feb. 27-28.
Team results: Hutchinson 316, Fergus Falls 295, Willmar 269, Melrose/Sauk Centre 266, Dassel-Cokato/Litchfield 196, Detroit Lakes 167, Perham 144, Montevideo 142, Rocori 104, Thief River Falls 88, Minnewaska 87, Park Rapids 56.
DL event results (*state qualifier) -- 200 medley relay: 5. DL A (Matt Weiss, Quillan Oak, Brandon Olson, Michael Bogda) 1:51.53...200 freestyle: 6. Olson 1:58.63...200 individual medley: *3. Oak 2:04.12...Diving: *1. Jon Melgaard 344.15; 9. Justin George 225.80; 14. Aaron Colby 200.45; 15. Pat Rethwisch 187.20...100 butterfly: 14. Weiss 1:03.13...500 freestyle: 6. Olson 5:22.88...200 freestyle relay: 12. DL A (Cody Okeson, Melgaard, Travis King, Zach Conklin) 1:44.53...100 backstroke: 11. Weiss 1:05.61...100 breaststroke: *3. Oak 1:02.65...400 freestyle relay: 5. DL A (Bogda, Olson, Weiss, Oak) 3:34.33.