Madison West holds off Middleton to repeat as Big Eight Conference boys swimming and diving champion
BELOIT — The top-ranked Madison West boys swimming and diving team knew it needed a strong finish in the second half of Saturday’s Big Eight Conference meet to overcome chief rival Middleton.
Madison West senior Wes Jekel eagerly accepted the challenge.
“I love it,” Jekel said about serving as a closer for his team. “It just gets me so excited to swim fast at the end of the meet. It is good to close out the meet like that.”
Jekel won the 100-yard freestyle in a pool-record 46.65 seconds at Beloit Memorial. The University of Wisconsin commit then anchored the Regents’ victorious 200 freestyle relay (1 minute, 25.66 seconds) and 400 freestyle relay (3:08.71).
Both relays broke conference meet records, and the 400 freestyle relay victory in the final event secured Madison West’s defense of its conference title.
Madison West finished with 554.5 points, just ahead of runner-up Middleton’s 543. Madison Memorial placed third with 383.
“I am really excited,” West first-year coach Amanda Ellmaker said. “I told the boys that Middleton is a really good team this year. We’ve been racing them quite a few times this season and it has always come down to the last few events. So, I’m really proud of how we did today.”
Said Jekel: “(The conference crown) is important. It is one of the big meets toward the end of the season. But we have our eyes looking forward.”
WIAA sectionals are next weekend and the Division 1 state meet will take place Saturday, Feb. 16, at the UW Natatorium. Madison West is the defending Division 1 champion.
The Regents claimed all three relays and seven events overall, including the last four and six of the final seven. They needed those points to rally past Middleton, ranked third in Division 1 in the state coaches’ poll. The Cardinals were led by two-event winner Andrew Martin, a senior who shattered a 1985 conference mark while winning the 200 freestyle in 1:42.76.
“We knew after the 200 freestyle relay we were about 80 points behind,” Ellmaker said. “But we knew our breaststrokers had a chance to score about 66 points on the score sheet. We knew our backstrokers, our breaststrokers and the 400 free relay had to step it up.”
Regents senior Jaden Weiss won the 100 backstroke in :53.02, ahead of teammate Isaac Casey-Hrenak (:54.46) and Sun Prairie senior Jacob Brehmer (:55.66).
Regents junior Charlie Feller claimed the 100 breaststroke (:59.45), edging Sun Prairie sophomore Ben Wiegand (:59.89). Madison West had five of the top eight finishers in the breaststroke.
Juniors Casey-Hrenak and Andrew Fernandez and seniors Constantin Bensch and Jekel then pulled away from runner-up Middleton for the 400 freestyle relay victory.
“To have that push at the end of the meet is really nice,” Jekel said.
Bensch claimed the 100 butterfly (:51.66) and combined with Weiss, senior Henry Miller and Feller to win the opening 200 medley relay (1:36.91). Casey-Hrenak, Fernandez, Feller and Jekel won the 200 free relay in 1:25.66.
Martin, who’s committed to Xavier University, finished first in the 200 freestyle in 1:42.76, out-reaching runner-up Jekel (1:42.87). The 200 freestyle record of 1:42.96 was held by Madison West’s Jay Mortenson since 1985.
“I was very happy with that,” Martin said. “I didn’t actually know what the conference record was going into that. So, I was very surprised afterward. It’s really fun to race against Wes Jekel. I don’t get the chance to do that a lot. … He’s such a good competitor and works really hard. That was such a hard race. Luckily, I was able to hold on, on the back end.”
Martin later comfortably won the 500 freestyle in 4:46.30. Middleton junior Nathan Kim won the 200 individual medley (1:56.76).
“We tried to get as much of a lead as we could going into it and we did,” Middleton coach Danny Lynam said. “Everybody moved up. It just wasn’t quite enough. I’m very happy.”
Wiegand (:21.54) earned a narrow victory in the 50 freestyle over runner-up Casey-Hrenak (:21.55) and third-place Shane Rozeboom (:21.77), a senior for Verona/Mount Horeb.
The diving title went to Madison Memorial’s Drew Bennett, who totaled 472.50 points.