By Robert Whitmire
The SPASH Panthers boys swimming team walked into the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point pool as three-time defending Wisconsin Valley Conference meet champions.
They left two hours later as four-time defending champions.
Senior Ben Harris racked up two individual wins and was the anchor for two winning relays. Harris finished first in the 50-yard freestyle (22.89) and came right back with a win in the 100-yard butterfly (55.24). He returned to anchor the 200-yard freestyle relay (Hunter Shulfer, Chad Franz, Zach Dahlseng, Ben Harris, 1:31.98) and the 400-yard freestyle relay (Dahlseng, Shulfer, Franz, Harris, 3:33.60).
“This has been a great season,” said Harris. “We have a really fun group of guys this year; we won all of our dual meets and did really well in all of our invites.”
Junior Zach Dahlseng picked up two individual wins including the 200-yard freestyle (1:51.72) and 500-yard freestyle (5:04.39). Dahlseng was also a member of the two Panther winning relays.
“Every person put in a great effort at practice and it has shown at meets wity considerable improvement in everybody’s times,” said Dahlseng. “This has been an exciting conference season and it culminated with a fun conference meet featuring many close races. Looking ahead, the sectional meet is important on my road to state.”
Freshman Chad Franz finished second in the 100-yard backstroke and was a member of both winning relays as well. Franz also won the 100-yard freestyle.
“Next weekend for sectionals we are looking strong,” said Harris. “I am hoping to have a good state meet again and pick up some team records along the way. The good news is that my times going into sectionals this year are faster than last year so hopefully the trend continues.”
Junior Hunter Shulfer looked back on the season and offered some observations.
“This has been a very successful season. We have seen a lot of improvement throughout the season compared to where we began. We also faced a lot of adversity starting the season with fifteen swimmers and ending it with eleven. The guys that were able to stay healthy and in the water really pulled through,” Shulfer said.
Final team standings in the 2016 Wisconsin Valley Conference meet were: Stevens Point, first place with 296 points; Marshfield, second place with 282 points; Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln. third place with 272 points; Wausau East, fourth place with 224 points; and D.C. Everest, fifth place with 202 points.
The Panthers, who went through the conference dual meet season with a perfect 8-0 record, now turn their sights to the WIAA Sectional in Hudson on Saturday, February 13.