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East Ridge boys swimming & diving: Raptors put on show at sections

East Ridge junior Sam Scholz races in the 200-yard individual medley at the Section 4AA Swim and Dive Finals on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Stillwater Junior High School. Scholz won the race in a school-record time.1 / 2
East Ridge sophomores James Tidd, left, and Kent Rabideaux each qualified for the state meet in the maximum four events - including finishing first and second, respectively, in the 50-yard freestyle.2 / 2

Though it ended on a sour note, East Ridge's section swimming and diving meet was spectacular.

As it has all season, the Raptors boys swim team put on a show. This time the stage was the Section 4AA Swim and Dive Finals on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Stillwater Junior High School.

With first- and second-place finishes garnering a trip to the state meet -- which will be held Feb. 28-March 2 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center -- East Ridge earned eight first-place finishes and took second three times in the section meet's 14 events. Even more impressive is that East Ridge didn't shave or taper for the section meet and every one of Raptors' state qualifiers is an underclassman.

"We'll have a nice showing at state," East Ridge head coach Steve Webb said. "It's a long list (of state qualifiers). The bright side is they'll all be coming back next year. Our goal next year is to win state. This year is to get more experience. Next year is to win it all."

East Ridge sophomores James Tidd and Kent Rabideaux each qualified for the state meet in the maximum four events and junior Sam Scholz and sophomore Garrett Verhoeven each qualified for state in three events. The Raptors are sending two of their four relay teams to state as well.

East Ridge would've sent one more relay team, but the Raptors' 400-yard freestyle relay was disqualified in the final event of the meet. After winning the race, East Ridge was disqualified as one of the team's swimmers re-entered the pool for a cool-down before the final team finished the race.

"It is what it is," Webb said. "It's a rule. The officials did their job. I tell my swimmers to get in the pool and warm-down after races -- that's what they're supposed to do. I'm not mad at either of them actually. It just happened to be another team was still swimming 40 seconds after we were done."

Two swimmers on the 400 relay -- sophomores Pierce Firebaugh and Aleksander Holleran -- won't get to perform at the state meet, because of the error. The other two members -- Scholz and Verhoeven -- will likely join other relays to make them stronger. However, not having a third relay team in the state meet will likely sting at the state meet, according to Webb. It was believed the Raptors and Edina would've battled for third place previously, with Eden Prairie being heavy favorites to win it all.

"That 400 free relay would've scored a pretty good amount of points at the state meet," Webb said. "It could cost us. We'll see how many places. It's going to be really tight between the fourth and eighth slots at state. We'll see where we fit in. We probably would've needed that 400 relay to take third."

Good friends nearly tie for first in 50 free

In the week leading up to the Section 4AA meet, Tidd and Rabideaux joked they wanted to tie for first place in the 50-yard freestyle at sections and share the top spot on the podium. In the meet, they nearly pulled it off. Tidd took first place with a time of 21.70 seconds and Rabideaux finished second in 21.71 seconds.

"We were joking about it earlier this week, but we didn't think we'd really be that close," Tidd said. "I feel really good right now. I couldn't have done it without Kent. We've both been pushing each other throughout the season."

Eden Prairie senior Aaron Greenberg is the top sprinter in the state and is roughly a full second faster than the two Raptors in the 50. But, both Tidd and Rabideaux are ranked in the top 10 in the state in the event and each has a legitimate shot at all-state in the race.

Webb said Tidd and Rabideaux are good friends and it's a coin toss between who is actually faster, saying they go back and forth between first and second in almost every meet. Tidd said the competition has helped them both reach their maximum potential.

"I think having a friendly competition does make me better," Tidd said. "We like racing each other because it's fun and competitive, but you also don't want your friend to beat you because they can have that on you and joke with you that they beat you."

In addition to going 1-2 in the 50 freestyle, Tidd and Rabideaux also teamed up to help the Raptors' 200-yard medley relay and 200-yard freestyle relay teams reach state. Also, Tidd won the 100-yard breaststroke in 1 minute, 41 seconds and Rabideaux took second in the 100-yard freestyle in 47.88.

"James and Kent did what they needed to do today," Webb said. "They almost tied in the 50 free, going 1-2. Kent didn't have a great 100, but he'll be better at state, and James won the 100 breast and that was all we needed."

Scholz wows in record-breaking 200 IM

It's not often a swimmer of Gregory Norsten's quality comes around. Norsten, a 2012 Woodbury graduate and current University of Minnesota Golden Gopher, won back-to-back state championships in the 200-yard individual medley and is the greatest male swimmer in the history of Woodbury High School. On Saturday, Scholz nearly broke Norsten's Section 4AA record in the 200 IM, taking first place with a time of 1:55.47 - just eight-hundredths of a second back of Norsten's mark.

The time was an East Ridge record, however.

Scholz, who is ranked in the top five in the state 200 IM, also took first place in the 100-yard backstroke and helped the Raptors 200-yard medley relay take first place.

"Sam Scholz had an awesome meet - coming in .08 off Greg Norsten's record - Greg is obviously a phenomenal swimmer," Webb said. "Sam's swimming really well - and he wasn't shaved, so he should be even faster at state."

The 2012-13 state meet begins with the diving prelims on Feb. 28. The Class AA swimming prelims will begin Friday, March 1, at 6 p.m. and the finals will begin at the same time on Saturday, Mach 2.

Tidd, who moved to Woodbury from Illinois a year ago, competed in one high school state meet in Illinois along with a number of club state meets, but this year will be his first Minnesota high school state meet.

"It's just nice to have a team that's this good in the state and to represent the high school like we can do," Tidd said. "We mean business with our swimming. We're not joking around. We always try our hardest and do our best."

The goal now Tidd said: "Go faster."