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SWIMMING AND DIVING: Experienced Jacks return to state meet

Five Bemidji High School athletes — four swimmers and a diver — will compete in the MSHSL state swimming and diving meet starting today at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. Shown are, from left, Wyatt Yartz, Sam Howard, Tyler Hemp, Nate Gubbels and Matt Arndt. Hemp will swim in the 200 IM and 100 breast stroke and join fellow swimmers, Gubbels, Arndt and Yartz in the 200 medley relay. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Experience can be a great ally when an athlete competes on the big stage and the Lumberjacks representing Bemidji at this weekend’s state Class A swimming and diving meet believe that their familiarity with the pressures of the state competition will lead to success.

The state competition begins today with the diving preliminaries and the Jacks will be represented by Sam Howard.

The swimming preliminaries begin at noon Friday and Bemidji athletes will compete in three events. Tyler Hemp will swim the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke. The senior will also compete in the 200 medley relay along with Nate Gubbels, Matt Arndt and Wyatt Yartz.

Both the swimming and diving competitions will be held at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis.

“This will be my second time at state,” said Howard, who placed ninth last year in the diving competition. “Last year I learned that the judges are much harder at state than they were at the section meet and you can’t look at your scores. You need to look at your dives.

“At state you need to dive close to the board to score but you can’t be so close that the judges are afraid for you,” he added.

The senior has been among the state’s top Class A divers all winter and enters the state meet ranked among the top four. Joining him as potential favorites are Reid Magnuson of Fergus Falls, Mitch Raihle of Spring Lake Park and Austin Ferris of Faribault.

“All four of us are veterans of the state meet and it’s going to come down to who looks best in the water,” Howard said. “My goal is to win. I’m confident and if I can hit my dives I know I can win.

“But I’m going to have to have a good day,” Howard added.

Hemp is making his third trip to the state competition. Last year he finished 14th in the 100 breaststroke and was 25th in the 200 free.

“My goal in both events is to finish in the top eight, make the podium and get a medal,” Hemp said.

Based on the section times, Hemp enters Friday’s preliminaries seeded sixth in the 100 breaststroke and 17th in the individual medley. In the latter event he will swim a 50-yard leg of the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and free.

“To swim the IM you have to be at least somewhat proficient in all of the strokes,” Hemp said. “In my case, I can usually pick things up in the breast and the free.

“The free is the universal stroke for swimming but it’s my second best behind the breast stroke.”

Hemp also will handle the breaststroke leg of Bemidji’s 200 medley relay team. Leading off in the race will be Gubbels with the backstroke.

“Much of the success in the backstroke is the start,” Gubbels said.”My job is to get a good lead for Tyler who will take over with his breaststroke.”

Gubbels was a member of last winter’s medley relay unit which finished 15th at the state.

“Being here last year I learned that it is important to stay calm and just worry about our own race,” he said. “Right now we are clicking as a relay team and I think that’s because of our experience together.”

Arndt also was on last year’s medley relay team and he swims the butterfly leg.

“I love the fly,” he said. “It is a stroke that you have to train hard for and be patient with during the season. But as you tweak it you become stronger with the fly.”

A year ago the medley relay team posted a time of 1:44.53 at state and at last week’s Section 5A meet the foursome posted a time of 1:42.48.

“Right now we are faster than we were last year at state and that shows that our taper is working,” Arndt said. “We’re going down to state to swim our best and have some fun doing that.”

Yartz is a newcomer to the medley relay unit but he did compete at state last year as a member of the 400 free relay squad that finished 22nd.

“But I’ve been swimming with these guys for three years and we’ve formed a good medley relay team,” Yartz said. “As the 50 free leg my role is to bring the race home. I like swimming short and sweet races. I like going fast one time down and back.”

Sending a medley relay team to the state competition has been the rule at BHS for the past few winters and Yartz is happy that the 2014 unit continued that trend.

“Making it to state in the medley relay has become a tradition,” he said. “It’s a great honor to swim the relay for Bemidji and to swim with these guys.”

Lumberjacks coach Megan Fuller is excited to see how her athletes will do at state and plans to enjoy the experience.

“The medley relay is ranked in the middle of the pack and needs to cut some time to hold their place,” she said. “But I think they can and I think they will. Tyler’s experience will be a great help to him and if Sam has a good day I think he can win the diving.

“All the training is done and now it is up to them,” Fuller added.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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