East Ridge boys swimming & diving: Tidd, Rabideaux and the Raptors have state swim titles in sights
James Tidd and Kent Rabideaux are two of the top swimmers in the state and good pals out of the pool.
Their friendly rivalry in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races is maximizing their potential and helping East Ridge become one of the elite boys swimming and diving teams in Minnesota.
“James and Kent both have tremendous talent and are two of the top swimmers in the state,” East Ridge head coach Billy Cuevas said. “You can see day to day how they interact with everybody. The guys look up to them and respect their abilities as swimmers.”
The 50- and 100-yard freestyle races are two of swimming’s most glamorous races — and Tidd and Rabideaux, who are both juniors, shine bright in both events.
Tidd is ranked No. 1 in the state in the 50 and the 100 and Rabideaux is eighth in both events. Tidd and Rabideaux have finished first and second, respectively, in every dual meet they’ve competed in this season.
“We push each other, which just makes you better as a swimmer,” Rabideaux said. “It’s a friendly competition. Because we’re friends, it makes it fun.”
Tidd broke his own school record in the 50 this year with a time of 21.12 seconds. He’s currently about four-tenths of a second faster than the No. 2 guy in the state —Spencer White of North St. Paul. Rabideaux isn’t far behind. His best time in the 50 this year is a 22.10.
In the 100-yard freestyle, Tidd’s 47.01 has him No. 1 on the leader board, just ahead of Edina’s Alexander Rehnberg (47.15). Rabideaux has clocked a 48.54 this season.
“You can definitely tell they wish they weren’t in the same event so they didn’t always have to race each other. But, at the same time they have fun with it,” Cuevas said. “When you have two of the top swimmers in the state swimming next to each other every single day you get to see some special things.”
Tidd and Rabideaux are also each on the Raptors’ dominating 200-yard medley relay and 200-yard free relay teams. East Ridge’s 200 medley relay is ranked No. 1 in the state with a time of 1 minute 37.52 seconds, which is a school record. The Raptors’ 200 free relay is ranked seventh with a time of 1:30.57.
“When we stack both of those, they’d both be ranked first in the state,” Cuevas said.
East Ridge went unbeaten last year and won its first Suburban East Conference championship, then went on to place sixth at the 2013 state meet. The Raptors brought every swimmer and diver back this season.
“Everyone has had a year to get really comfortable and close with each other,” Tidd said. “It’s been able to bring us closer as a team and as a whole. We’re able to communicate and work together that much better. I think that’s definitely contributed to how good we are.”
The Raptors are currently on a 23-meet win streak in head-to-head competition and beat fellow conference power Stillwater earlier in the year. The Raptors also took fourth place at the prestigious Maroon and Gold Invite at the University of Minnesota in early January. In the top division, East Ridge scored 320.5 points and was right there with second-place Wayzata (354.5) and third-place Minnetonka (341) and ahead of perennial powers Stillwater, Eagan, Eden Prairie and Maple Grove. A team from Nebraska won the meet with 635 points.
Cuevas, Tidd and Rabideaux all said their performance at the Maroon and Gold invite was an eye-opener for the entire team.
“They knew how good they were, but they didn’t realize to what level,” Cuevas said. “They didn’t realize they could really compete with the Wayzatas, Minnetonkas and Eden Prairies. We’ve been able to see a huge difference in their attitudes and mindsets from before that meet to after that meet. They’re a lot more focused and a lot more excited every day.”
With each meet having 12 events and with individuals only able to swim in a maximum of four events, every team needs a number of athletes to do well in order for the team to succeed.
East Ridge has its share of standouts in addition to Tidd and Rabideaux.
East Ridge senior Sam Scholz’s swimming resume is also very impressive.
Scholz is currently ranked No. 1 in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1:55.66 and is No. 2 in the 100-yard breaststroke with a school-record time of 58.99. He’s also on the Raptors’ 200 medley and 200 free relay teams.
Scholz earned fifth place in the 200-yard IM at last year’s state meet after finishing just eight-hundredths of a second back of Greg Norsten’s Section 4AA record in the event. At state, however, Scholz’ goggles slipped off halfway through the race which slowed him down.
“Sam has had that state title in his mind since last year,” Cuevas said. “Last year he came up just short, losing his goggles in the finals. But, it may have been a blessing in disguise because he came back really hungry.”
Scholz didn’t run cross country this fall in order to focus on swimming.
“You can definitely see by his times that it’s paying off,” Cuevas said. “He is just a much better swimmer overall. He came into the season right where he left off last year and keeps getting better and better.”
Also on the long list of East Ridge standouts is junior Garrett Verhoeven, who is ranked seventh in the 500-yard freestyle (4:50.00) and 11th in the 200-yard freestyle (1:46.52).
Rabideaux said being around greatness every day inspires him.
“I think the entire team motivates us,” Rabideaux said. “Our team is really close this year and the fact that we’re so good and working hard together just makes us all better.”
This year, the Raptors have a chance to have a number of firsts.
The East Ridge boys swim team hasn’t had a state champion since the school opened in 2009. Also, no team from East Ridge has ever won a state title.
However, Cuevas doesn’t feel pressure.
“It’s not really on my mind that we have to get that first one,” Cuevas said. “I just see how hard they work and I want it for them. They deserve it. They work hard and dedicate their lives to this sport. I just want to see the best for them.”
With two-thirds of the season over, Tidd said the team is focused and will be ready for the postseason.
“The more work you put in now the better you’re going to do in the championship season,” Tidd said. “The work we’re putting in now is going to count in the end.”