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SWIMMING: Hendricks qualifies for 500 free consolation finals

Bemidji High School junior Sam Hendricks takes a breath during the first heat of the 500-yard freestyle race at the Class A State Tournament on Friday at Jean K. Freeman Aquatics Center. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Bemidji Pioneer)

MINNEAPOLIS -- On to the consolation finals.

Bemidji High School junior Sam Hendricks posted a time of 5:02.12 in the 500-yard freestyle to take fifth place in his preliminary heat and 12th overall. He’ll compete with the rest of the field who took places 9-16 in today’s consolation finals race.

Hendricks said the preliminary race was faster than last year when he took 15th overall with a prelim time of 5:06.6, but he was pleased with how it turned out.

“I was feeling good,” he said. “It was a good race. It was pretty much all I had. I could’ve done maybe a little bit better on my turns or something, but it was a good race.”

Poolside, BHS boys swimming head coach Kristen McRae liked what she saw.

“I think Sam did very well,” she said. “When you get to this competition at this level and you’ve rested and tapered to get here, frequently it’s hard to come back and swim faster. And he did. He swam faster than his seed time. He’s got another opportunity to do it tomorrow, and in an ideal world, we’ve got him under five minutes again.”

Hendricks’ Section 5A preliminary time of 4:59.88 was his personal best and the fastest of the meet, and he took second in the finals at 5:02.76.

After adding more than a second from preliminary time to finals time at the state meet last season, he hopes his year-round training and overall improvement lead him to do the opposite this year.

“Sam works hard,” McRae said. “He truly is a very hard worker. He gets smarter every year, he gets better every year, he gets bigger and stronger. And he works, trains all the time.”

In a race as long as the 500, small adjustments can go a long way in reducing time.

“If you’re off by two-tenths or three-tenths every (lap), that adds up, and that’s a difference maker,” McRae said. “It’s fractions of a second. It’s picking up a couple of turns faster, getting out a little bit quicker. Just little things that can be cleaned up would mean a lot of time tomorrow taken off.”

On whether or another sub-five time is something Hendricks has in him today, he said, “That’s what I’m going to shoot for.”

Joining Hendricks on Finals Saturday is Cameron Munter, who qualified for the diving finals with a third-place score of 272.05.

“We’ve got a small team, two guys, here,” said McRae. “They’ve both worked hard. They’re both respected amongst the swimming community. They’re going to put points on the board for Bemidji. It’s going to be fun tomorrow. Tomorrow’s all about let’s see what we can do.”