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Oak comes oh-so-close to 1st state championship

Laker junior Quillan Oak swims in the Class 1A state 100-yard breaststroke Saturday inside the U of M Aquatics Center. Oak finished as the state's runner-up.1 / 5
Laker diver Jon Melgaard performs a dive during the Class 1A state finals Saturday.2 / 5
Brandon Olson races in the Class 1A state 500-yard event Friday inside the U of M's Aquatics Center.3 / 5
Quillan Oak races the freestyle leg of his state 200-medley IM Saturday.4 / 5
LAKER JUNIOR DIVER Justin George goes downward during one of his state dives Saturday in the Class 1A meet inside the U of M Aquatics Center.5 / 5

Only .32 of a second separated Detroit Lakes junior Quillan Oak and Laker history.

That's how much time separated Oak and Sam Nields of St. Thomas for the Class 1A state 100-yard breaststroke championship Saturday inside the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center.

Despite breaking his own DLHS record and recording his first sub-minute 100 breaststroke, Oak repeated as the state runner-up in the event, as Nields out-touched the DL junior for the state title.

Oak nearly became the first DL native to win a state title, after foreign ex)change student Henrik Bewarder won the 500-freestyle in the 2005-06 season.

"Quillan wasn't disappointed in his time, but he was in the second-place finish," said DL head coach Rian Heimark. "Getting a time under a minute is fast, that's very tough to do."

Oak started the finals race as the No. 3 seed after his 1:00.99 preliminary time. He raced out in the lead in the first 25 yards, but a slight misread on his first turn cost him the lead.

"He hung on the wall a bit too long and that's not like him," Heimark said. "It all came down to that first turn. Swimming-wise, he was faster than everybody."

Oak made a strong move in the final 25 yards, but Nields held him off for the championship.

The Laker junior also had a strong showing in the 200 individual medley, where he shaved off a full four seconds from his preliminary time of 2:02.64 with a 1:58.06 mark in the finals, which was good for fourth place.

"That is one great improvement," Heimark added.

Fergus Falls junior Mike Hurley won the event for the second straight year with a time of 1:56.39.

The Laker diving duo of juniors Jon Melgaard and Justin George also had good showings.

Melgaard met his goal of landing in the top five with a fifth-place finish at 328.35 points, while George was 11th with 270.50 points in his first state meet.

For Melgaard, his third time was the charm.

"I got what I wanted (in his third trip to state)," Melgaard stated.

The dive that put Melgaard over the top for his fifth-place finish was his second to last dive, which was an inward double -- his highest degree of difficulty dive.

He hit it right on, scoring a total of 49 points from the judges.

"It was my best ever I've done on that dive, so that is very good timing," Melgaard added.

George's 11th place finish was higher than he ever expected in the meet.

"I was pretty consistent, it was like a normal meet for me," George said. "I didn't do so hot on some of my dives I usually do well on, but I didn't do bad, either."

Both divers will be back next year for another potential run at the state meet.

Some state meet nerves affected Laker Brandon Olson, who finished 21st in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:12.41.

"Brandon took off too fast, he had one of his fastest first 50's he's ever had," Heimark said. "And his second 50 was just as fast.

"Brandon was just so excited, that he took off too fast. It ended up being a long race for him, so it's a good lesson he learned for next year."

The 200-medley relay team finished 22nd with a mark of 1:47.92, as Travis King, Oak, Cody Okeson and Olson each took their turns in the state water.

"They gave it their best," Heimark said. "They were tapered for the section, so they were pretty tired for this meet after adding an extra week of work on top of that."

The Laker team score was 52, which was good for 15th overall and the most points ever scored by a DL boys' swimming and diving team at the state meet.

There is also very good news for the Lakers next year, as all of their state qualifiers will be back, as well as the majority of the team.

"I brought 12 young guys down with me to state, so they got to see it," Heimark said. "Their perspective has changed and they all want to be down here next year."

Laker results

Class 1A state swimming and diving meet inside the University of Minnesota's Aquatics Center, Friday-Saturday, March 5-6.

DL results (team finished 15th with 52 points) -- 200-yard medley relay: 22. DL (Travis King, Quillan Oak, Cody Okeson, Brandon Olson) 1:47.92...200 individual medley: 4. Oak 1:58.06 (2:02.64 prelim)...500 freestyle: 21. Olson 5:12.41...Diving: 5. 328.35; 11. Justin George 270.50...100 breaststroke: 2. Oak 59.63 (1:00.99 prelim).

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.