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Santa Claus gave the Baraboo boys swimming team a late present on Thursday evening.

The Thunderbirds hosted Chippewa Falls and Onalaska/Holmen for the BHS Holiday Classic and Baraboo successfully defended its home water, taking first with a total of 194 points at Jack Young Middle School. Onalaska/Holmen took second (175) followed by Chippewa Falls in third (169).

For head coach Chris Lemke, the win was a true testament to the T-Birds’ diligence, as he mentioned the team had an efficient couple of weeks of practice and even swam 4,500 yards the morning of Thursday’s meet.

“It was really nice. You know the guys have worked really hard this week; it’s their Christmas week so the last two weeks we’ve added the volume and the strength. We had a lot of time, a lot of long practices,” he said. “I was really impressed with how they swam today. We dropped a lot of time.”

Baraboo began the meet on a slower note, but still managed a third-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay. Mitchell Hoppe, Jacob Laux and Luke Stelling led things off before freshman Ethan Klingenmeyer zoomed down the lane, handling the freestyle leg in 22.68 seconds to give the team a time of 1:53.72. Junior Josh Hackbarth followed with a win in the 200 freestyle; his 1:55.26 was a personal record by 3 seconds. Senior Jasper Swallen also dropped 3 seconds, taking third with a 2:00.75.

Laux kept things going in the 200 IM, taking first with a 2:11.05 to give the Thunderbirds another 10 points. Klingenmeyer followed with a 24.32 in the 50 free and Stelling was runner-up in the 100 butterfly in 1:03.58, with each finishing behind Onalaska/Holmen’s Garrett Wise. Hoppe took fourth place in the butterfly with a 1:09.51, dropping his time by 3 seconds.

“That’s a lot for the fly,” Lemke said. “Mitch swims all heart. That’s one of the really great things about watching him swim. He swims with everything he’s got, so that’s pretty awesome.”

Hackbarth got an easy 10 points in the next event, the 100 free, swimming a 52.48 to touch first. Klingenmeyer added six points after taking fourth with a 57.54, giving the Thunderbirds a 95-93 over Onalaska/Holmen through the first half of the meet.

Swallen finished 12 seconds behind the leader in the 500 free with a 5:32.65 to take third, while sophomore Jakob Lemke took fourth with a 5:41.99, which was an impressive 19-second drop in time. Klingenmeyer, Ben Beal, Swallen and Hackbarth teamed up to win the 200 free relay in 1:38.9 while Stelling, Noah Tiber, Isaac Brewer and Lemke took third in 1:48.37.

Beal led Baraboo in the 100 backstroke with a fifth-place finish (1:11.67). Laux, the lone Baraboo representative in the 100 breaststroke, took second in the event in 1:05.58, just 22-hundredths of a second behind Chippewa Falls’ Ian Olson.

Coach Lemke rearranged his relay teams with Nash Brickl out with an injury, which made for a unique look for the T-Birds in the final event, the 400 free relay. Hackbarth anchored and gave Onalaska/Holmen’s Isaac Killilea a run for his money, eating up almost all of a full swimmer’s length deficit before falling just 14-hundredths short. Swallen, Lemke, Laux and Hackbarth took second in 3:44.16.

“He’s another one that’s all in,” Lemke said. “He puts everything that he’s got into a race, and that was a fun race because it was a different look to our relay teams. They came together really well.”

The meet came two days after the team’s annual alumni swim meet, which saw a great turnout with 18 past swimmers competing.

“The best thing about the swim community is that. We’re celebrating 20 years with the pool, and people are still around and that’s what makes this community so awesome,” Lemke said. “Where we are right now is because of those folks.”

Baraboo will be back in action next year when the T-Birds host Sauk Prairie for a conference dual on Jan. 2.

“We start with Sauk on Tuesday, go down to Stoughton on Saturday, so we really start the competitive season now,” Lemke said. “So hopefully we start seeing better times like we did tonight.”

Follow Chris on Twitter @chris_CNsports

Regional Sports Reporter