Patriot boys swim/dive team finishes 12-0

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Undefeated. That’s how the boys swim and dive team finished its regular season. On Nov. 9-10, the Patriots will head to the State Championship RecPlex in St. Charles.

Junior Zachary Ward said the clear highlight for the season was the victory over Kirkwood, Oct. 16. The Pioneers had not lost a regular-season meet in the past five years. Cooincidentally, the Kirkwood team is coached by 2002 South graduate and Patriot record-holder Matt Beasley.

“The guys really wanted to win [that night.] We didn’t want our first loss to be on senior night. Our coach hyped us up and convinced us that we could do it,” Ward said.

Ward qualified for state for the first time at that meet, finishing the 200-yard freestyle in 1:50.56. He said he has made big advances since he joined the team three years ago as a freshman.

“It’s crazy that I’ve come this far. My freshman year I wasn’t even close,” he said.

On the diving side, the team was led by freshman Brayden Escher, who also qualified for State along with divers Justin Epperly, Sean Rafferty and Nick Huchet. Escher was a conference champion at the conference meet, Oct. 23-24. Huchet took 8th place, Epperly placed 5th and Rafferty took home 3rd place. In addition, the South 400-yard freestyle relay team took 2nd place and earned a silver medal.

Escher said he is proud to be on an undefeated team.

“It feels really good, especially because it’s my freshman year and I just came to this school,” he said.

Ward has been a Patriot swimmer for three years, but he also is proud to be undefeated. He said each win brought more pressure on the team to keep up the streak.

“It feels a lot different from the other years because there was a lot of pressure to stay undefeated,” Ward said. “But coach was always pushing us to go above and beyond.”

Escher and the other divers weren’t able to contribute in the meet against Kirkwood, because South doesn’t have a diving board. The meet was originally scheduled to be hosted by Kirkwood, which has a diving board, but no diving team. Not having South’s divers compete cost the team 13 points. However, the Patriots still beat Kirkwood, 89-81.

Escher said when the meet started he wasn’t aware that Kirkwood hadn’t lost in five years.

“I didn’t know that until the middle of the meet. Someone had to tell me,” he said.

Head Coach Jeremy Nichols commented on how it felt after the Kirkwood meet.

“I know it’s cliche, but words cannot do justice to how I felt after Kirkwood. All day Wednesday I was just happy and relaxed. I felt blessed to be a part of that and to coach that,” he said.

Nichols said he respects the Pioneers swimmers and their coach.

“I respect Matt [Beasley] tremendously. To do well against them is one thing, but beating them is special,” he said.

Nichols said one key to this season’s success is depth.

“In some ways we are stronger [than last year],” he said.

Other than the Kirkwood meet, Nichols highlighted the Marquette Relays and Cape Rock Invite as big events this season, but now all his focus is on state.

“We have to build up a bit because we tapered going into conference. We’re going to concentrate on individual goals and we will be positive as a whole,” he said.

Other than Ward and the divers previously mentioned, other Patriot automatic state qualifiers include seniors Zach Gay (captain), Ryan Hilgendorf, Justin Epperle, Sean Rafferty, sophomores Austin Scarlas and Nick Huchet, and freshman Jacob Spoerle. Patriot consideration state qualifiers include juniors Matt Christofferson, Adam Heskett, Jeffrey Schaefer, and Josh Weeks, sophomores Ethan Hudson and Liam Smith, and freshman Gabe Porter. South won’t know whether these qualifiers will swim at State until Nov. 1.

South’s assistant swim coach is Ethan Goldfarb. The Patriot diving coach is Jenoa Olson.

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