MINNEAPOLIS — It’s been 30 years since the Winona Senior High School boys swimming team won a MSHSL individual state title.
In one afternoon, junior Griffin Wolner won that and more, winning the 200- and 500-yard freestyles at the Class A state meet on Saturday at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center on the University of Minnesota campus.
“I’m waiting for the blood pressure to come down. It was incredible. That was remarkable. It really was,” coach Chris Mayer said.
The last Winhawk to win a state title was Tom Guillou in 1987. Guillou, now the coach at St. Michael-Albertville, won the 200 and was second in the 500.
Wolner won both, highlighting a fifth-place finish for the Winhawks as a team.
“This is what I wanted from the day after state last year, so I knew I had a chance coming in, but I wasn’t sure that I had it until I actually had it today,” Wolner said. “I was a little nervous coming after the 200, but once I got that I knew I’d be alright because I already had one. The pressure came off.”
Wolner, who won the 200 in 1:41.63, then came from behind in the 500 to win in 4:39.62. Breck/Blake’s Spencer Pruett placed second in 4:41.22 and Orono’s Andy Kileen placed third in 4:41.32.
“I saw that I was on Andy’s hip, and I saw Spencer was about a body length or so ahead of me. I didn’t know if it was going to be close or not,” Wolner said. “At the 150 before I was looking, I was like ‘I don’t know if I’m going to get this because it looks like it’s pretty much far gone.’
“But on that last one I just tried to haul and get as close as I could. When I saw Spencer at the turn, and I saw that we turned at basically the same time, and I was like ‘Oh my god. I need to get going. I still have a chance in this.’”
And Wolner’s drive was visible from the poolside, too.
“He knows what he need to do, and when the going gets tough for him, he turns it on better than anyone else,” Mayer said. “And that’s what he is. He’s the one who knows what he can do, and he’s the one who knows he can go after it even when he’s behind. Kind of like us as a whole team, we turned it on at the right moment. We came from behind and finished top five; it’s pretty much how the season went.”
As a team, the Winhawks tied for fifth place at 138 points with Big Nine counterpart Mankato West.
“For us to even break into the top 10 we’re pretty happy. To tie for fifth, I’m pretty elated,” Mayer said. “West is a heck of a team and Andy Viker their coach is an incredibly good coach. So to be up there with them, proud.”
“West was one of our biggest competitors throughout the season. They’re in our conference; they’re in our section. It was a lot of fun competing against those guys,” said senior captain Riley Jorgenson, who won the 500 freestyle consolation heat in 4:58.33.
Freshman Grant Wolner picked up fifth and sixth place finishes in the 200 individual medley (1:57.69) and the 100 breaststroke (59.75).
Freshman Jack Herczeg took seventh in both the consolation 50 freestyle (22.11) and the consolation 100 freestyle (48.68).
To finish off the meet, the relay team of Tanner Lozenski, Herczeg and both Wolners took fifth in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:27.57 and fourth in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:13.25. The relays dropped four seconds from their qualifying time in the 200 and more than seven seconds in the 400.
For the younger students, Saturday was promising for the future.
“The relays were way faster than we’ve ever been and we’re all returning next year which is very rare. So it’s going to be fun next year too, and I can’t wait,” Griffin Wolner said.
And for the seniors it was a bittersweet conclusion.
“I’m happy with how I swam, but I’m sad that it’s done,” Jorgenson said. “It feels really good.”