MINNEAPOLIS — The combined Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert boys’ swim team will take advantage of a huge opportunity today as they get a chance to swim the Class A State True Team meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center in Minneapolis.
Despite not winning the 6A True Team section meet, the local swimmers advanced to True Team state after posting one of the six highest scores amongst non-section champions. The six wild cards will join the six section champions at a meet where every point matters.
Virginia-Eveleth-Gilbert, swimming together as one team for the first time, hope to use this meet as a learning opportunity, according to head coach Dan Boelk.
“Any chance to get to swim in that pool is huge,” Boelk said of the University of Minnesota’s pool. “A lot of these kids won’t make it to the state meet and this is the first time swimming in it. It’ll be deer in the headlights for them but they’ll see how different it is from swimming in a regular meet. And for our guys that we hope to qualify for state, it’s a bonus to be able to swim in the same pool as the state meet. There’s no experience better than that.”
Swimming as a single team, Boelk says the Blue Devils and the Golden Bears have both benefited from competing as teammates instead of opponents this year.
“There’s been no real trouble with the two teams combining. It’s actually made things more competitive in the pool. Only so many get to swim at the end of the year. Everyone used to figure they had a spot at sections but now kids want to swim faster to make sure they earn their spot.”
Practicing and competing together seemed natural to swimmers from both schools as they were friendly foes already.
“It’s really nice to have a full pool at practice too. It’s fun. It’s created a good atmosphere. A lot of these guys swam together in the summer swim club so they were already kind of teammates that way. Swimming is a tight knit group. They’re rivals, but at the end of the race they’re friends and they’ll shake hands.”
The combined team has definitely given Virginia-Eveleth-Gilbert a more competitive edge. In years past, teams like Hibbing and Grand Rapids had too much depth for both teams to handle. As one, they can match teams like them point for point and even come out on top in some scenarios.
“It’s nice to know you have a shot going into a meet with some of these teams. Nobody can really sit back now that we’re together. I’m looking forward to how the rest of the season plays out. The group of experienced guys we have are eyeing state and we have a strong group of young guys coming too so it was really the perfect time for the two to come together.”
At today’s meet, a few area swimmers have hopes of finishing inside the top eight and medaling. Andrew Bird is seeded seventh in the 100 yard freestyle with a time of 50.75. In addition, the 200 freestyle relay team is seeded sixth with a time of 1:34.01. At True Team sections, Bird, Leif Sundquist, John Kendall and Aiden Hecimovich competed for Virginia-Eveleth-Gilbert.
The Class A True Team State Meet is set to begin today at noon in Minneapolis.