WAUKESHA — A late start to actual competition didn’t dash the Sun Prairie boys swimming and diving team’s state title hopes this season.
The Cardinals worked through small-group practices and virtual meets due to the COVID-19 pandemic and health and gathering orders from Public Health Madison & Dane County. After competing in one quadrangular outside Dane County, they then won their sectional leading into Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 state meet at Waukesha South Natatorium.
Despite the abbreviated season, Sun Prairie proved it was ready for its moment.
Fourth-ranked Sun Prairie totaled 232.5 points and earned its first state championship.
“When you get to experience this moment, man, it hits home,” Sun Prairie coach Joel Coyne said. “This is a special group. It’s been years in the making — years in the building. This is the fruits of that labor.”
The Cardinals, whose best finish had been third last year, finished ahead of the second-ranked Greenfield co-op (runner-up with 211 points) and top-ranked and third-place Hartland Arrowhead (192).
“It feels incredible,” Coyne said. “I’m at a loss of words. There is a sense of pride and admiration for this team and what they’ve been able to accomplish and overcome, and still really deliver. We had a goal and we pushed through all that came with it.”
Sun Prairie senior Ben Wiegand won the 100-yard freestyle; was part of the record-setting 200 freestyle relay and the second-place 400 freestyle relay that wrapped up the team title; and finished second in the 50 freestyle in which he and winner Emilio Perez of the Greenfield co-op each broke the state-record time.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” said Wiegand, a University of Wisconsin commit. “We’ve been swimming together forever. My freshman year and my sophomore year, we never thought this was possible. To be standing here right now, it’s a little surreal.”
Middleton sophomore Nick Chirafisi was the other area individual champion, winning the 200 freestyle. Chirafisi entered as the top seed and claimed the event in 1 minute, 39.83 seconds. He also finished fifth in the 500 freestyle.
“I came in with a mindset to do my best,” said Chirafisi, whose school also faced the Dane County health restrictions. “I just put on my cap and goggles and did what I’ve trained for. Practice has been a lot harder (this season). I haven’t been able to get much time in the pool. So, when I do, I work as hard as I can. It’s been a very different year for Middleton.”
Wiegand, the defending champion and state record-holder in the 50 freestyle, and Perez both shattered Wiegand’s record time of 20.16 seconds in the 50 freestyle.
But it was Perez, a senior, who earned the championship, establishing a record time of :19.81 while edging runner-up Wiegand (:19.92).
“It was bittersweet,” Wiegand said. “Any other time I would have been (extremely excited), but for the fact I came in second. But I was still excited about the time. I think it was cool we both went under 20.”
Said Coyne: “You have got to tip your hat to Perez. That was an exciting race. That was just a fantastic race. He just touched him out.”
Wiegand came back strong, winning the 100 freestyle in :44.08.
The Cardinals’ 200 freestyle relay team of junior Ethan Braatz and seniors Avery Lodahl, J.P. Anhalt and Wiegand then set a state record of 1:22.69 in claiming first place. Sun Prairie broke Middleton’s 2019 mark of 1:23.12.
Sun Prairie pulled away in the second half of the meet and just needed to avoid a disqualification in the final relay. Its team of Braatz, senior James Werwie, Anhalt and Wiegand placed second behind Greenfield.
“We felt confident in where we were as a team,” Coyne said. “We said, ‘Safe starts, and then let it rip.’’’
Perez set a second state record in winning the 100 butterfly in :47.27, breaking the 2003 mark of :47.71. Sheboygan North junior William Hayon was second in :47.56, also bettering the previous record.
After Sun Prairie, Verona/Mount Horeb was the next highest area team — seventh with 112 points. Oscar Best, a Verona/Mount Horeb junior, finished third (:49.89) in the 100 butterfly. Junior Nathan Rozeboom was fourth in the 100 breaststroke and Verona/Mount Horeb was fifth in the 200 freestyle relay.
Jan Lanser, a West Bend West/East junior, was the diving champion with 562.05 points. That total was the second-best state performance in Division 1, ranking behind Racine Park’s Andrew Suchla (563.45) in 2013. Madison Edgewood’s Ryan Jefferson has the top all-division score of 582.80 in Division 2 in 2006.
Waukesha North won the 200 medley relay (1:32.50). The Sun Prairie team of junior Nathan Halbach, Werwie, junior Jonathan Schluesche and Lodahl was fifth.
Greenfield co-op senior Jackson Lustig was victorious in the 200 individual medley (1:50.63) and the 500 freestyle (4:30.22).