RFHS boys swim team took ‘huge step’ this season, says coach

Posted 3/15/22

The 2021-22 iteration of the River Falls High School boys swim and dive team showed tremendous signs of growth this season, as the program sent its largest group of athletes to the state swim meet …

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RFHS boys swim team took ‘huge step’ this season, says coach


The 2021-22 iteration of the River Falls High School boys swim and dive team showed tremendous signs of growth this season, as the program sent its largest group of athletes to the state swim meet since Caitlin Brudzinski took over as head coach.

There is perhaps no greater indication of success in high school sports than seeing a team or a group of individuals punch their ticket to state in their respective sport. For Brudzinski’s roster this year, she had six student-athletes qualify for the state meet which was held at the Waukesha South High School on Friday, Feb. 18.

In the weeks after the state meet, Brudzinski had time to reflect on the season, her swimmers and the overall status of the program. She began by speaking about that trip down to state and what transpired in Waukesha.

“This was the largest group I’ve brought as a coach and it’s the first time we’ve brought any relays,” Brudzinski said. “I’m really proud of what they were able to do. Individually, we did well. Taylor (Matter) was top-eight in the Individual Medley (IM) and podiumed (fifth place) in the 100 Butterfly. Daniel (Carns) did a nice job as well, finishing 12th in the breaststroke.”

While River Falls had success in the individual events, the relay event was disqualified because a swimmer left early. Brudzinski said it was disappointing, but she understands why the disqualification happened.

“Our third swimmer left early,” Brudzinski said of the state relay event. “I know they were shooting for that school record, so they were pushing some of those transitions because they were trying to drop that time.”

Despite the disqualification, it was still the most successful trip to state in recent memory for the River Falls boys swim and dive team. For Brudzinski, seeing that success shows that the program is making strides and is improving every year.

“I think we took a huge step this year competitionwise with being able to compete in the Big Rivers (Conference) with some of those bigger schools,” Brudzinski said. “With a bigger team, I’m excited to see how our newer swimmers progress as they gain a year and gain more practice. Hopefully, we can bring in more freshman and more new swimmers next year to keep growing the program.”

For Brudzinski, the goal is always going to be more growth. This season she saw the team grow in terms of overall numbers and success. She spoke about having some newer swimmers on her roster, in addition to the veterans that have been doing it for years.

“It was an interesting team makeup this year,” Brudzinski said. “We had six athletes who were very brand new to the sport. When you have those kinds of athletes, they legitimately drop in just about every meet because they get stronger and their technique is getting better. We also have those athletes who have been doing this since they were 10 years old.”

According to Brudzinski, throughout the year, almost all of her swimmers were regularly dropping time. For new swimmers, it was learning the proper technique and getting stronger, and for others, it was the additional experience and hard work. She spoke about how times changed for her roster.

“I think everybody worked really hard,” Brudzinski said. “Looking at our season results, there is an event here or there where they swam it a couple of times and didn’t drop times, just about everybody had dropped time throughout the season. They’re a hard-working group and they had a lot of fun.”

River Falls finished third in the final Big Rivers Conference standings with a 4-2 record in dual meets, trailing only Hudson and Eau Claire Alliance. Brudzinski made it clear that competing with and beating either of those schools would take a lot more growth in terms of team size – those are powerhouse swimming programs.

“We know we’re never going to touch Hudson or Eau Claire (Alliance) unless we double our team size,” Brudzinski said. “I was pretty certain those were going to be tough (meets) to win.”

While Hudson and Eau Claire have established themselves as blue blood swimming programs, Brudzinski knew that River Falls would be able to compete with and likely defeat every other school in the conference.

The only two conference losses of the season, as the coaching staff expected, were against the two aforementioned programs. On Thursday, Dec. 2, Eau Claire Alliance defeated River Falls 118-65 and on Friday, Jan. 7, Hudson defeated River Falls 119-66. In the remaining four conference meets against Superior, Chi-Hi, Menomonie and Rice Lake, River Falls had an undefeated 4-0 record.

“We always beat Superior and among the other teams, it just depends,” Brudzinski said. “After seeing the first couple of results come out, I was fairly certain we could win the rest of our meets. Realistically, I was confident we could win most of our conference meets and our athletes came through and delivered.”

While competing with Eau Claire Alliance and Hudson might still be several years away, there is no question based on team size and overall results that the River Falls boys swim and dive team took a huge step in the right direction throughout the 2021-22 season.

The River Falls High School swim team’s 200-yard Medley Relay team gathers at the state swim meet in Waukesha. The relay consisted of sophomore Alton Lesneski, sophomore Kai Hagen, junior Taylor Matter and freshman Daniel Carns. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Brudzinski