Tiger swimmers take Big Nine title

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 14, 2003

ROCHESTER &045; Ethan Berg, Josh Elwood, Ben Matheson and Ben Schreiber stood on the victory platform, fists raised toward the sky.

It was the first of several such scenes for the Albert Lea Tigers.

The foursome won the 200-yard medley relay, one of eight Albert Lea victories, as the Tigers captured the Big Nine Conference boys’ swimming and diving championship at the Rochester Recreation Center Thursday night.

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It was the seventh Big Nine title for coach Jon Schmitz and the Tigers and their first since 1999, when they completed a three-year run. They also won it three straight times starting in 1993, with second-place finishes in 1996 and 2002.

Taking second this year was not an option, according to Schmitz.

&uot;We really wanted to get this one,&uot; said the coach. &uot;We were 11-0 this season, and we just felt like we needed to win the Big Nine. Faribault’s a very tough team. We pulled out all the stops for this meet.&uot;

The Tigers totaled 380 points, well ahead of second-place and defending champion Faribault, which had 298.5. Mankato West was third with 262.

There were many highlights for the Tigers, but the biggest was by the 400 freestyle relay team that won with a conference-record 3:21.50. The old record, 3:22.88, was set in 1982.

&uot;That was huge,&uot; said Schmitz.

The Tigers were close to a Big Nine record in the 200 freestyle relay, which they won in 1:31.80. The record, set by the Tigers in 1992, is 1:31.74.

It was not reported who swam the 400 and 200 freestyle relays for the Tigers. Listed in the program as possibles for the 400 were Colton

Jensen, Ryan Lowe, Mitch Johnson, Matheson, Berg, Schreiber and Elwood. Listed for the 200 were Chris Jackson, Jensen, Lowe, Johnson, Matheson, Berg, Schreiber and Elwood.

Berg, Elwood, Matheson and Schreiber won the medley in 1:43.36.

Johnson, a junior, won two individual races, the 100 freestyle in 48.44 seconds and the 200 freestyle in 1:47.26. He just missed the Big Nine record in the 100, 48.31 set by his brother Erik in 1999.

Jensen was second to Johnson in the 200 freestyle, clocking 1:53.08.

The Tigers went 1-2 in two other events. Schreiber won the 200 individual medley in 2:08.23, with Matheson second in 2:08.26. Berg and Elwood were 1-2 in the 100 butterfly in 56.2 and 57.92, respectively. Schreiber was also first in the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.93.

Other ALHS places: Elwood, fifth, 200 IM, 2:13.05; Lowe, sixth, 50 free, 23.76 and sixth, 100 free, 52.21; Jackson, 14th, 50 free, 24.22; Jensen, fourth, 500 free, 5:16.52; Berg, second, 100 backstroke, 57.97; Sean Harms, 13th, 100 backstroke, 1:04.99; Matheson, third, 100 breaststroke, 1:05.70.

&uot;I’m proud of these guys,&uot; said Schmitz, who said at the start of the season he estimated the Tigers’ chances of winning the conference title at 50-50. &uot;As the season went on, we had young athletes progress into well-seasoned athletes. Last year, we had one conference champion. This year, we won eight conference titles. We can score the big points, and that’s when you win meets. The guys grew up a lot since last year, and they’re still young.&uot;