Austin seniors to stage final performance at state meet

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2003

With everyone sporting matching shaved heads, the Austin boys' 200-yard freestyle relay team certainly looks the part of returning state qualifiers.

After a week of light practice, seniors Levi Van Pelt, Ethan Simonson, and the brothers Hall -- Derek and Josh -- will be heading up north Friday hoping to improve on a 27th-place finish in last year's state meet.

"Three of us have been up there before," said Josh Hall, "so we will represent this time."

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With a ranking of 17th out of 22 teams competing, the Packer quartet will have to improve its standing to the top 16 if it wants to advance to the second day of competition.

"Most of the guys we'll be swimming against Friday are from our section," said Derek Hall, "so that gives us a good idea of what we're up against."

"They all have better times in them," said AHS head coach Lynn Gulbrandson. "It's just a matter of them all coming in together."

Seven teams from Section 1A qualified for the 200 freestyle relay race at state, including defending champion St. Thomas Academy. A foursome from Simley was the section champion by five-hundredths of a second ahead of St. Thomas.

'This'll be the last time we get to swim together," Simonson said of the three seniors, "so we think we'll definitely be able to make top 16."

Seven medalist teams from 2002 return to the Class A field, including St. Thomas Academy and Red Wing (eighth) from Section 1.

"It'll be one heck of a party we get top eight," promises Derek Hall.

The Class A state swimming preliminaries begin Friday at noon at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis. Should Austin finish in the top 16, the Packers will swim in Saturday's finals which also start at noon.