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Posted 2/15/22

__________________ The River Falls High School boys swim and dive team has steadily improved throughout the season and put it all together on Saturday, Feb. 12, in the Division 2 sectional meet where …

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The River Falls High School boys swim and dive team has steadily improved throughout the season and put it all together on Saturday, Feb. 12, in the Division 2 sectional meet where the Wildcats finished runner-up, their best finish in the last four years.

RFHS head swim and dive coach Caitlin Brudzinski described the day as “phenomenal” for her athletes. The day of competition began with a second-place finish in the Medley relay, which featured Alton Lesneski, Kai Hagen, Taylor Matter and Daniel Carns, a group that swam a season-best time of 1.44.38.

The success continued for River Falls in the 200 Free event. The Wildcats had three athletes on the podium with Lesneski in fifth, Darin Derks in sixth and Cooper Cernohous in eighth place. Three more Wildcats made their way to the podium for the Individual Medley (IM). That included Matter in third, Nathaniel Fosler in seventh and Leo Griffey-Byram in eighth place.

In the 100 Butterfly, Matter won the race by less than one second (0.14). The sectional victory meant that Matter automatically qualified for the state meet. While Matter took the victory, Cernohous of River Falls finished in eighth place for the event. In the 100 Freestyle, Carns swam a close race and finished runner-up by 0.17 seconds. Griffey-Byram also placed with a finish in eighth.

The only Wildcat swimmer in the 500 was the aforementioned Derks, who finished in fifth place for the event. The 200 Free Relay of Lesneski, Fosler, Griffey-Byram and Cernohous placed fifth as well. The 100 backstroke saw Lesneski finish in third place and Fosley in sixth.

While there was success in essentially every event for River Falls, perhaps the best was the breaststroke. Carns earned a second-place finish and Hagen finished in fourth. In the final relay of the event, a rotation of Griffey-Byram, Derks, Matter and Carns earned a second-place finish.

State qualifiers and comments

There was no shortage of Wildcats that qualified for state in what was easily their best meet of the year as a team. Qualifiers include the Medley Relay of Lesneski, Hagen, Matter and Carns. Matter also qualified as an individual in the 200 IM and the 100 Butterfly events.

Carns qualified as an individual in the 100 Breaststroke. The 400 Free Relay of Griffey-Byram, Derks, Matter and Carns. Griffey-Byram and Derks, the two River Falls seniors, will end their career competing in the biggest high school swim and dive meet in Wisconsin – not a bad way to go out. Coach Brudzinski spoke about the sectional meet and the success of her team.

“Our athletes had a phenomenal day,” Brudzinski said. “They swam their best races of the year and it culminated with a second-place finish overall. Everyone played a part in this meet. We had athletes in the top eight of every event except for one. We also had athletes in the top three of seven events.”

Brudzinski spoke highly of her athletes and how they competed on one of the biggest stages in high school sports, a sectional tournament.

“I’m so proud of how well they’ve done this season and it culminated in the best way possible,” Brudzinski said. “They all swam so well yesterday. I’m excited that our two seniors get to end their high school swimming career at the state meet.”

The Division 2 WIAA State Swimming and Diving Championships are scheduled for Friday, Feb. 18, at 1:30 p.m. The championships are hosted by Waukesha South High School. The swimming timed finals begin at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.