East Ridge boys swimming & diving: Raptors wow at record-breaking section meet
With a state championship crown in its crosshairs, the highly ranked East Ridge Raptors boys swimming and diving team put on a show at Saturday’s Section 3AA championship meet in Stillwater.
East Ridge swimmers took the top spot in seven of the meet’s 13 events and second in two others on the way to a second place overall finish. Seven East Ridge swimmers qualified for the Class AA state race and two set Section 3AA records at the meet.
“I’m very pleased with how everything went,” East Ridge first-year head coach Billy Cuevas said. “Just about everything we wanted to happen did happen. It was one of those great meets that makes me super proud to be their coach.”
As a team, East Ridge earned 376 points to take second to Stillwater, which won the Section 3AA championship with 525 points. The Ponies showed their depth, sending the most total swimmers to state, but only finished in first place in two events — diving and the 200-yard freestyle relay, an event the Raptors won but were disqualified in because one Raptor left the block early.
“That was a stinger, but it is what it is,” Cuevas said. “We still have a lot of swimmers at state and a shot at placing very high.”
East Ridge junior James Tidd qualified for the state meet in the maximum four events. Tidd, the No. 1-ranked freestyle sprinter in the state, won both the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle and helped the Raptors win the 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay at the section race.
Tidd won the 50 free with a time of 21.24 seconds, ahead of North St. Paul senior Spencer White (21.57) and just .01 seconds away from the Section 3AA meet record of 21.23 held by Roseville’s Michael Richards since 2006.
“It’s great whenever you can be compared to such a great swimmer like Mike,” Cuevas said. “He won by three-tenths, which is quite a bit in a race that is that short.”
In the 100 free, Tidd edged his friend Kevin McPherson of Tartan with a time of 46.84. McPherson, who had a time of 46.90, is the No. 2-ranked swimmer in the state in the 100 free.
“The 100 was probably one of the most exciting races of the entire meet,” Cuevas said. “They were neck-and-neck the entire way. He ended up touching him out by .06.”
East Ridge’s 200-yard medley relay team of Tidd, senior Sam Scholz, junior Kent Rabideaux and senior Ryan Schiferl won the event with a time of 1 minute, 36.41 seconds. The 400-yard free relay team of Tidd, sophomore Tyler Langstraat, junior Pierce Firebaugh and junior Garrett Verhoeven took second-place with a state-qualifying time of 3:15.14.
Cuevas said without the 200-yard freestyle reaching state, East Ridge will now be able to stack the 400-yard freestyle rather than splitting its top swimmers between the two events and said he feels the Raptors could win the state title in the 400 free relay.
“Without the 200-yard freestyle we’re not going to get as many points as we could’ve overall,” Cuevas said. “But, we can attack the 400 free relay a little more. Our goal is to definitely get a championship in the 400 free relay.”
East Ridge’s Rabideaux and Sam Scholz each broke Section 3AA records with impressive swims.
Rabideaux won the 100-yard butterfly in 51.34, breaking the former record previously owned by East Ridge’s Matt Koken from two years ago. The time will put him near the top of the state’s rankings. Prior to the section races the fastest time in Class AA was 51.32 by Fridley’s Colter Allen.
“We knew his fly was really coming along and we knew it was going to be fast, but we just didn’t know it was going to be as fast as it was,” Cuevas said. “It was definitely a pleasant surprise.”
East Ridge senior Sam Scholz smashed the record in the 200-yard individual medley owned by Woodbury star Greg Norsten. Scholz, the top-ranked swimmer in the state in the 200 IM, swam a time of 1:54.62 in the event to beat Norsten’s section record of 1:55.39.
“Norsten has one of the fastest times in state history in that event,” Cuevas said. “For Sam to beat one of his records is quite an accomplishment. It’s one of the records Sam had his eye on the entire season. It’s great everything came together where he could get it. He definitely took off from the start and didn’t look back.”
Rabideaux and Scholz were each part of the disqualified 200-free relay team but both earned trip to state in three events. Scholz also won the 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 59.75 and Rabideaux reached state in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.84, good for third in the section.
Verhoeven also reached state in three events. Verhoeven, who was on the disqualified 200-free relay team and the state-qualifying 400 free relay team, won the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:51.15 and finished second in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:44.15.
East Ridge senior David Scholz also qualified for the state meet for the Raptors. The twin brother of Sam Scholz punched his first ticket to state with a state-meet qualifying time of 1:01.59 in the 100-yard breaststroke.
“Sam is one of the best swimmers in the state and David is a great swimmer, too, but is sometimes in Sam’s shadow,” Cuevas said. “It was great because it’s his senior year. He was very happy and very excited. I’ve never seen anyone celebrate like he did. It was one of my favorite moments of the season.”
David Scholz’ time edged the 1:02.40 needed to go to state and was good for fourth place.
“Qualifying for state was definitely something that was in his sights,” Cuevas said. “He trained so hard for it this year and didn’t quite have the time. But, once he rested a little and everything came together he was able to go much faster than expected.”
East Ridge junior Alex Heide also reached state in the 100 breaststroke, taking third place with a qualifying time of 1:00.49.
The Class AA state meet will take place this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. The swim prelims will be held Thursday, the diving prelims will be Friday and all finals will be held Saturday night.
With the Raptors’ 400 free and 200 medley relays and swimmers like Tidd, Sam Scholz and Verhoeven having great chances to win state titles, Cuevas said East Ridge is also one of seven teams with a legitimate shot at the Class AA state championship.
“It’s going to be very tough to win a state title, but it’s not impossible,” Cuevas said. “Everyone still has to swim. If everything falls into place anything can happen.”
Including East Ridge, the teams most likely to come away with the state title include Minnetonka, Wayzata, Hastings, Prior Lake, Eden Prairie and Edina.
“This is a very close meet overall,” Cuevas said. “It’s going to be one of the most exciting team races in recent memory at the state level.”