BEMIDJI – When Bemidji High School swimming coach Woody Leindecker was swimming for coach Lee Ahlbrecht at Bemidji State back in the 1980s he was introduced to Ahlbrecht’s take on tapering.
Ahlbrecht knew that the season was long and that no athlete could be at peak efficiency for every competition. With that in mind, his coaching philosophy was based on having his swimmers peak when it mattered the most – the postseason.
Leindecker has introduced the same philosophy to his Lumberjacks and last weekend his swimmers learned, once again, that this taper method is successful.
“In swimming a team should never be judged until the final race and final meet,” Leindecker said. “Don’t ask me about our won/lost record because I have no idea what it is. To me that doesn’t matter. In my mind the entire season can be judged by how you do at one meet – the section meet.
“And these kids did great.”
The Lumberjacks did so well that Tyler Hemp advanced to state in the 200 free and 100 breast stroke, Sam Howard made it to state in diving and the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay teams qualified for the trip to the University of Minnesota pool.
Howard will be the first Lumberjack to compete as the diving preliminaries are set for noon today. The top 16 divers after today’s action will advance to Saturday’s championship rounds.
The swimmers will begin their quests for state laurels Friday at noon. On Saturday the top eight will return for the championship heat and the ninth through 16th preliminary finishers will swim in Saturday’s consolation race.
“There is no doubt that our taper works,” said BHS senior Nick Gubbels who is a member of the two relay squads. “You can see across the board how well Bemidji tapered. Guys who beat us all year lost to us Saturday at the section meet.”
In the Section 5A 400 free relay the Lumberjacks were seeded seventh and were nowhere near reaching the state meet qualification time. In Saturday’s final, however, Nate Gubbels, Nick Gubbels, Wyatt Yartz and Hemp moved up to fourth overall and earned their trip to state with a time of 3:27.19. That time was about .40 seconds faster than the state standard.
“I think we can swim even faster at state,” Yartz, who swam the third leg of the 400 free relay race, said. “I think we will all swim our best at state.”
Nate Gubbels is a freshman but at the section meet he had the responsibility of handling the first leg of both relays.
“In the medley I do the backstroke and my job is to have a safe start, beat the guys next to me and have a safe finish,” Nate Gubbels said. “When everybody is cheering at the start of a race you have to stay calm but that might be hard to do at state.”
Hemp handles the breast stroke leg of the medley relay and his job is to protect or improve the team’s position.
“If Nate gave us the lead I have to keep it and if we are a little behind I have to push past the other guys,” Hemp said.
Last year Hemp competed at state in the 100 yard breast stroke and he plans on taking advantage of that experience.
“Being at state is nerve wracking but I think my experience will help me take a deep breath and do what I have to do,” Hemp said. “It’s always an exciting experience being at state.”
Arndt will handle the butterfly chores of the medley relay and the junior plans on holding nothing back.
“I’m going to put it all out there and swim my fastest the entire 50 yards,” Arndt said. “I’m usually pretty amped when I race and when it’s my time I just want to get in the water.”
Howard nailed his final dive at the section meet to preserve his trip to the state meet and the junior hopes to take that momentum into today’s preliminary round.
“They judge harder at state and if I can score 325 I’d be happy,” he said. “The top 16 after the preliminaries go to Saturday’s final and I want to be in that group. Ultimately, I want to finish in the top eight and get a medal.
“And I’m confident that I can do well,” he added.