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Detroit Lakes freshman Quillan Oak takes off from the starting block for his 200-yard individual medley state finals race in the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center Saturday. Oak finished fifth overall in the 200 IM and took second in the 100 breaststroke shortly after. (Brian Wierima/Record)

Oak finds silver lining in state swim meet

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MINNEAPOLIS - For Detroit Lakes freshman Quillan Oak, just making the Class 1A state swimming meet for the first time wasn't enough.

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It didn't take Oak long to test out the state waters in his two events Friday and Saturday inside the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, as the Laker freshman phenom finished second overall in the 100-yard breaststroke and medaling in the 200 individual medley with a fifth-place finish.

His two top-five places are the highest for a DL native in school history. Foreign exchange student Henrik Bewarder won the 500 freestyle in the 2005-06 season, as well as placing second in the 200 freestyle.

"Taking second place was great," Oak said about his 100-breaststroke finish. "I was expecting third or fourth. In the 200 individual medley, I was just hoping to break the DL record."

In which he did, along with a trip to the podium.

Oak's section competitor -- Fergus Falls sophomore Mike Hurley -- won each the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke, setting the IM state record with a 1:49.58.

But in the 100 breaststroke, there was a group of three to four swimmers vying for the silver all the way up to the final 25 yards.

It was Oak who had that final extra push, as he recorded his second-straight personal best time of the weekend (the first coming in the preliminaries) with a 1:01.28.

Oak had the second-best split -- behind Hurley -- in the final lap with a 32.41.

"On my final turn, I saw the guy in the next lane right next to me, so I just kicked it into gear," Oak said. "I stayed low and kept my head together."

He out-touched St. Thomas senior Michael Quinn by .36 of a second.

"Those final 25 yards is what did it for Quillan," said DL head swimming coach Rian Heimark. "He was able to stay focused for both events. He came into the state well tapered and rested."

Saturday's finals started out well for Oak, by placing in the top five in the 200 IM -- which was his goal coming out of the preliminary race from Friday.

"I was just focused and relaxed (Saturday) after being a little nervous Friday for the prelims," Oak said of the keys to his day.

With Oak already making a profound statement as a freshman, his bar will be set as high as any Laker swimmer before him in the next coming years.

"This says a lot about Quillan and his determination to do what he did only as a freshman," Heimark said. "I see how good his work ethic is and he's only to get better. Everything went perfect for Quillan this weekend."

Not to be overshadowed was the performance of sophomore diver Jon Melgaard, who finished ninth overall with a score of 276.90 -- which is the highest placer in state of any DL diver in school history.

Melgaard bumped up three spots from his 12th place preliminary finish Thursday by scoring 91.8 points on his final three dives.

"I was able to nail my final dive and got a 7.0 from one judge, which is good," said Melgaard, who was competing in his second state diving meet. "I just wanted to do well at state and taking (ninth) isn't too bad."

DL diving coach Bobbi Koons saw a big improvement in Melgaard from his first state meet last year.

"I saw that he was more focused," Koons said. "He's only going to improve from here and get better. I was very happy he was able to move up from 12th to ninth from his first day."

Red Wing junior Turner Eckstrom won the state diving title with a 430.40.

Breck/Blake won the state team championship with a combined score of 296, while St. Thomas Academy was runner-up with a 267.

Laker results

MSHSL boys' swimming and diving state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis, Thursday-Saturday, March 5-7.

Team results (top 5 of 34): Breck/Blake 296, St. Thomas Academy 267, Red Wing 208, Simley 175, Fergus Falls 143. 16. Detroit Lakes 40.

DL event results (prelim-final) -- 200-yard individual medley: 5. Quillan Oak 2:03.66-2:02.00...Diving: 9. Jon Melgaard 185.10-276.90...100 breaststroke: 2. Oak 1:02.20-1:01.28.

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