Despite battling several injuries to key swimmers the 10th ranked Grand Rapids Thunderhawk boys swimming and diving team keeps rolling along with a 91-70 victory over the Eveleth-Gilbert Golden Bears on Thursday afternoon at the Robert J. Elkington Middle School Pool in Grand Rapids.
“It was a good meet. It’s fun to swim against Eveleth because they have the two fastest kids in the state with Luke and Zach Strumbell. They are returning state champs from last year in four events and won a couple the year before that. They are perennial favorites to win again this year,” Grand Rapids head coach Jerry Casey said. “The boys stepped up and swam well against them.”
The Thunderhawks had to battle injuries throughout the course of the season and were without six swimmers on Thursday afternoon.
“We have been hurt and have a lot of injuries this year. We were missing six boys tonight due to school and injuries,” Casey said. “Hopefully, we can get our team healthy, strong and ready to go for the section meet. The nice thing about it is, we have only lost one meet and that meet we lost to a good team in Bemidji. We are a better team but we had so many injuries that night.”
Two of the state’s top swimmers were on display on Thursday afternoon in the form of Luke and Zach Strumbell. The Golden Bear swimmers showcased their talents in the pool.
The Thunderhawks had several great swims along with a strong diving performance from Gavin Goulet. Goulet broke the pool record on Thursday.
“Goulet broke the record by about two points and it was nice to see him drop everything in,” Grand Rapids diving coach Matt Ropponen said. “He still has a couple of dives he is working on and we are hoping he will keep improving. He personally wants to go after the old school record which is a great goal but he also has next year to work on it. He just keeps getting stronger every day. We are going to keep our fingers crossed for the section meet and the state meet.”
Along with Goulet, the Thunderhawks have had a premier group of divers that consist of Pat Marx, Bobby Laney and Dustin Miller. The four divers will make it tough on the area teams come section time.
“It’s the strongest core of divers we have ever had and it keeps you on your toes,” Ropponen said. “I love it, it’s stressful but it’s the kind of stress that every coach wants to have.”
The Thunderhawks started strong winning the 200-yard medley relay event behind the team of Rick Harris, Trent Torgerson, Donny Broten and Brady Bjorklund with a time of 1:52.35. The Grand Rapids team of Troy Torgerson, Sam Jevne, Alex Kepler and Nathan Craven came in second at 1:57.58 while the team of Nick Christenson, Dan Schenck, Eben Rohling and Chase Johnson ended in third at 2:06.38.
Luke Strumbell led the Golden Bears to victory in the 200-yard freestyle event with a time of 1:51.21. Broten came in second for Grand Rapids at 2:02.82 followed by Trent Torgerson at 2:08.53. Zach Bjorklund finished fourth at 2:10.77.
Barrett Wiberg had a strong race for Grand Rapids in the 200-yard individual medley event with a time of 2:21.36. Jevne came in second place at 2:31.68 and in third place was Troy Torgerson coming in with a time of 2:34.23.
“Wiberg, our senior captain, is doing a great job. He dropped his time in the 500 and is down to a 5:28 and is way ahead of himself from last year,” Casey said. “He has some high goals he wants to set. He wants to set the school record in the 500 and he is on his way to doing that.”
Kepler was victorious for Grand Rapids in the 50-yard freestyle with a winning time of 25.05. Craven came in second place at 25.87 and in third was Robby Gordon at 26.30.
Goulet finished first in the diving competition with a pool record score of 245.32. Pat Marx was second at 218.90 and in third was Dustin Miller at 119.90.
Zack Strumbell knocked off a pool record with a time of 53.89 in the 100-yard butterfly event to take first. Broten came in second for Grand Rapids at 1:02.34 and in third was Harris at 1:05.84.
Luke Strumbell followed with a win in the 100-yard freestyle event with a time of 49.25. Wiberg was second for the Thunderhawks at 54.90. Kepler came in third place at 56.21 and in fourth was Gordon at 56.29.
Brady Bjorklund was victorious for Grand Rapids in the 500-yard freestyle event with a winning time of 5:44.02. Carter Rohling came in second at 5:45.95 and in third was Zach Bjorklund at 5:53.29.
The Thunderhawks swam exhibition the rest of the meet. The Grand Rapids ‘B’ relay team finished with a time of 1:40.98 while the ‘A’ relay team came in at 1:43.84 in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
Troy Torgerson finished with a time of 1:08.10 in the 100-yard backstroke with Harris right behind at 1:09.61 and Nick Christenson coming in at 1:15.17.
Zack Strumbell was tops for Eveleth-Gilbert in the 100-yard breaststroke event with a time of 1:08.72. Jevne finished with a time of 1:11.24 followed by Trent Torgerson at 1:11.55. Dan Schenck came in at 1:14.33 followed by David Matetich at 1:25.43.
The relay team of Luke Strumbell, Matt Muhich, Mario DelGreco and Zack Strumbell finished first at 3:51.14 for Eveleth-Gilbert. The Grand Rapids team of Brady Bjorklund, Broten, Gordon and Wiberg finished at 3:39.47 in exhibition. Carter Rohling, Zach Bjorklund, Eben Rohling and Trent Torgerson finished at 3:57.42 and Chase Johnson, Christenson, Matetich and Jevne came in at 4:23.20.
The Thunderhawks are at home for the final time on Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 5 p.m. for a triangular meet with Duluth East and Superior at the Robert J. Elkington Middle School Pool.