Swimming: Perham skims past Lakers for Mid-State championship; Melgaard and Oak set new conference meet records
DETROIT LAKES - Although Friday's meet didn't result in Detroit Lake's first Mid-State Conference title in five years, it can be considered as the Laker's coming of age meet.
For many of the DL swimmers or divers, this year's Mid-State meet was their first championship-style competition and many of the Lakers made the most of it.
The up-and-coming Laker team was a couple of hand lengths away in the 400-yard freestyle relay from capturing that elusive Mid-State championship, but ultimately, it was Perham which brought home the title -- the Yellow Jackets first outright conference banner.
The Lakers ran the favored Yellow Jackets all the way down to the very last event -- the 400 freestyle relay.
DL's "A" team of seniors Michael Bogda, Matt Weiss and freshmen Brandon Olson and Quillan Oak did their part by winning with a time of 3:34.47.
It came down to Perham and Detroit Lakes' "B" teams and it came down to a touch.
Perham's anchor was able to out-touch DL's final swimmer Zach Conklin by .5 of a second to secure the title.
For DL, they were quietly confident heading into the meet after beating Perham in the Park Rapids Invite just a week ago.
"We knew we were close (to Perham), but we also knew we weren't just going to take it," said sophomore Jon Melgaard, who had a record-breaking performance in diving.
For Oak, who helped win the 400 relay with a strong 52-second split in the anchor position, there was definitely an air of nervous energy for DL.
"Our confidence was high, but we were really nervous, too," Oak said. "(During the 400 relay) I took it easy on my third leg, because I knew (the Perham swimmer) was going to come after me.
"I just held my breath and went hard on the final lap."
Oak continued his torrid pace in the 100 breaststroke, not only winning the event, but also setting a new Mid-State record with a time of 1:02.46, breaking Mark Lewica's time of 1:04.38 set in 1988.
"I wasn't thinking of the record, I just wanted to do the best I could for the team," Oak said. "I have had a goal for a 1:02, but I thought I kind of had a plateau for this year."
Melgaard's diving score of 403.20 was also a Mid-State diving record, smashing Cody Olander's mark of 231.35 set in 1996.
Sophomore Justin George also scored some big points by taking second for DL with a 294.15.
"I was hoping Justin and I could take first and second to help out the team," Melgaard said. "I also wanted to get a high enough score to get back to third in the state rankings, which I think I was able to."
The win extends Melgaard's undefeated streak on the season, as well.
The Lakers were able to take a one-point lead in the meet after taking first and second in the 50 freestyle race before diving, as Bogda and Conklin went 1-2 with times of 24.40 and 25.29, respectively.
"We were counting on taking the top two spots in each of the 50 free and diving," said DL head coach Rian Heimark. "If we were not one and two in those events, we would have been out of it. After diving, I told the guys, 'It's a new start now.'"
Perham recaptured the lead with a top two finish in the 100 butterfly by Ethan McMahon and Casey Rutten, respectively.
Perham followed that up with a gold-silver placing in the 100 freestyle by Luke Hofland and Gavin Grismer, but the Lakers stayed close behind with some middle of the pack finishes.
"Our depth came through, especially in a two-person entry meet," Heimark said.
The Lakers had a total of five first-place finishes, including Olson's gold performance in the 500-freestyle with a time of 5:25.34, which should put him in the top 20 in the state.
"That was a total mental race for Brandon," Heimark said. "There wasn't anyone there to push him, so he was basically racing against himself."
DL will have two more home meets Tuesday against Morris and Thursday against Thief River Falls, then it's time to start tapering for the section meet.
Oak is currently ranked No. 2 in the state in the breaststroke and No. 1 is Fergus Falls' Mike Hurley -- who happens to be in the Laker's section.
"I'm going to work super hard the next few weeks to get ready for sections," said Oak, who missed going to state in the event by seconds last year. "I've been cursed the last few years because I've gotten sick before the sections. So I've been taking lots of vitamins every night so that doesn't happen this year."
For Melgaard, who finished in the top eight in the state meet last year in diving, is also looking to make a splash come section and hopefully state time.
"It would be great to get into the top five," Melgaard said of his goal at another potential state berth. "Last year, it was hard getting used to the U of M pool (where the state meet is held), but I went to a camp there last summer, so that shouldn't be a problem."
But even in defeat, the young Laker team found out that can make one even stronger after a strong Mid-State Conference meet.
Mid-State Conference meet at Detroit Lakes in the BTD Aquatics Center, Friday, Feb. 13.
Team results -- Perham 131, Detroit Lakes 121, Park Rapids 75.
DL event results (*Mid-State Conference record) -- 200 medley relay: 2. DL A (Matt Weiss, Quillan Oak, Brandon Olson, Michael Bogda) 1:52.07; 5. DL B (Cody Johnson, Jon Melgaard, Dameon Rozek, Cody Okeson) 2:03.30...200 freestyle: 2. Olson 2:00.97; 4. Weiss 2:06.02...200 individual medley: 2. Oak 2:07.84; 6. Travis King 2:31.28...50 freestyle: 1. Bogda 24.40; 2. Zach Conklin 25.29...Diving: 1. Melgaard 403.20; 2. Justin George 294.15...100 butterfly: 3. Weiss 1:03.48; 6. Rozek 1:10.15...100 freestyle: 3. Bogda 54.30; 5. Conklin 57.42...500 freestyle: 1. Olson 5:25.34; 3. King 5:58.72...200 freestyle relay: 3. DL A (Okeson, Melgaard, King, Conklin) 1:46.07; 4. DL B (C. Johnson, Brady Eilertson, Carter Krengel, Rozek) 1:50.02...100 backstroke: 4. C. Johnson 1:11.46; 5. Alex Renner 1:14.52...100 breaststroke: 1. Oak 1:02.46; 4. Melgaard 1:16.63...400 freestyle relay: 1. DL A (Bogda, Olson, Weiss, Oak) 3:34.47; 5. DL B (King, Eilertson, Johnson, Conklin) 4:05.07.