Hatchet swimmers score best ever finish at GNC Championship with 2nd place finish in Rhinelander
By Jed Buelow
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor, Sports and Nature Editor
Tomahawk set two new conference time records in individual events to go along with their best-ever finish at the GNC Championship after scoring 285 team points in Rhinelander Friday.
The undefeated Ho
dags went on to take the conference crown scoring 417 points. Finishing behind Tomahawk, Lakeland finished in 3rd followed by Shawano, Medford and Antigo rounded out scoring in 6th place.
The 285 put up by Tomahawk was the most ever put up by a Hatchet team at the championship – 31 points more than last season’s 254 and 11 points higher than the 2018 season finish of 274 which had been the highest to date. Hatchet head coach Marion Kohl noted the improved times and resulting points bode well as the team heads into WIAA Sectionals on Saturday, Feb. 15th and beyond as they look to punch their ticket to state in the weeks to come.
One of those swimmers who will more than likely be representing Tomahawk again in Madison is senior Travis Phillips. Not only did he break one of his old school records in an individual event he swam in Rhinelander to earn one of two 1st Team Conference honors, he also set new conference record times in the 200-yard IM – topping the old conference record of 2:01.33 set last season by Rhinelander’s Nolan Francis with a new time of 2:01.08. He also bested the old GNC record in the 100 butterfly set in 2015 by Shawano’s Zach Soper with a time of 53.41. However, Phillips’ record setting time in the butterfly did not break the school record, which he set in 2018 at the WIAA State meet with a time of 52.96.
Coach Kohl said the only downside to the evening for her team was the unexpected loss of one of our swimmers, Alex Norman, due to a dislocation injury sustained in an afternoon physical education class. Unfortunately it meant Tomahawk had to forfeit Norman’s points in the 200 free and 500 free, but Junior swimmers Noah Buckwalter stepped into his spot in the “B” 400 free relay along with Ethan Liebnitz, Cullen Flynn and Caleb Kretzschmar and the team was able to take 6th place in the event for 18 additional team points.
Tomahawk also scored a pair of 2nd place finishes in relays and two more in individual events to earn 2nd Team All Conference honors. Brady Tjugum turned in an impressive performance in the 200 free to finish in 2nd and Zach Hanse scored a runner up finish in the 100 breaststroke and re-broke his own school record of 1:06.43 down to a 1:05.68.
A pair of Hatchet relays also scored 2nd Team GNC honors, including the 200 free team of Z. Hanse, E. Liebnitz, A. Hall and B. Tjugum as they scored a season best time in 1:38.62 and the 400 free team of seniors B. Tjugum, Trey Miller, Keaton Jed and T. Phillips placed runner up to the Lakeland T-Birds in one of the most exciting races of the season. The T-Birds final time was 3:26.11 and the Hatchet relay swam a 3:26.76, which set the new THS school record, smashing the old time of 3:29.46 set by the group of Kole Svacina, K. Jed, Thomas Reiter and T. Phillips set back in 2018 at WIAA Sectionals.
The Hatchet finished in 3rd place in three events to earn GNC Honorable Mention. The Hatchet “A” 200 Medley Relay team of Miller, Hanse, Phillips and Jed led the evening off with a THS school record in the event, swimming a 1:47.42, a time which bests their previous time of 1:47.73 set earlier the season.
Earning individual All Conference honors, B. Tjugum scored his second Hodag Country in a personal best time of 52.52 in the 100 free and senior K. Jed swam a season best time in the 500 free in 5:29.91 to earn Honorable Mention.
Tomahawk had a couple swimmers just miss out on making All Conference honors. Z. Hanse rounded out his individual swims with a personal record 2:13.51 in the 200 IM to score 11 team points. A. Hall had a phenomenal time drop in the 100 breaststroke – after taking 2.8 seconds off of his best time last week hosting Medford, he dropped another 2.94 seconds in Rhinelander down to a 1:07.60 to score 11 points.
Other Hatchet swimmers earning podium finishes at the GNC Champioship were the Hatchet “B” 200 Medley relay of Caleb Kretzschmar, Hall, Ethan Liebnitz and Cullen Flynn took 5th in a season best time of 1:57.65 to score 20 points and were joined by individuals K. Jed, 5th in the 50 free with a personal record time of 24.11 and T. Miller tapped the finish line in the 100 free in 55.01 to score 10 team points.
Rounding out scoring for Tomahawk in Rhinelander, A. Hall took 6th in the 100 free with a personal best 55.31, by T. Miller in the 100 backstroke at 1:05.38 for 9 points. And to finish out a busy night in Rhinelander, the Hatchet “B” 400 free relay took a surprise 6th in the event with a solid time of 4:14.84 swam by Liebnitz, N. Buckwalter, Flynn and Kretzschmar to score an additional 18 points.
Coach Kohl said on an impressive note on the night that every one of the THS Team scored team points in at least one event, including the great group of new swimmers this season including Austin Snow and Jack Lacina, N. Buckwalter and freshman Taje Casey, who placed 8th overall as the “B” 200 free relay team to earn 10 team points
“It’s performances like this which make swimming such an exciting sport – AND much more of a team sport than most folks understand,” coach Kohl added.
The Hatchet will continue tapering down in practice this week so they can set a bunch more new record times when they travel to Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln this Saturday, Feb. 15 for the WIAA Division II Sectionals that gets underway at 1 p.m.