Fully loaded: Packers will be busy at state swimming meet

Published 6:17 pm Monday, February 27, 2023

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The Packers will be sending off three great seniors, while also developing their strong underclassmen when they look to make some noise in 11 separate events at the Minnesota Class A Minnesota State Swimming and Diving Meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Austin seniors Winston Walkup, Kenny Cabeen and Joey Hilkin are leading the way in the pool and junior Zach Evenson, sophomore Lucas Myers and freshman Brent Dahl will be learning a lot. Junior Riley Ferguson will be diving in his second ever state meet.

Walkup is coming off his first ever Section 1A championship in the  200-yard individual medley, where he is seeded eighth.

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“It was really exciting,” Walkup said of his section title. “For two weeks, I was thinking it was winnable and during the race I was getting goosebumps. I just kept thinking ‘don’t mess this up, you’re going to get first place.’”

Austin has a chance to place in multiple events and the 200-yard individual medley team of Dahl, Walkup, Hilkin and Cabeen is seeded fourth.

“Individually, we all are really strong swimmers,” Hilkin said. “We all filled in where it was needed. We got really lucky because none of our friends are getting left out of state. We’re bringing everybody who we wanted to bring.”

Austin’s seniors have served as big leaders, especially to Dahl, who transferred from Albert Lea to Austin High School this year. Dahl still lives in Albert Lea, but he’s proud to be a Packer.

“The Austin program has been good for me. It’s been a pretty good decision,” Dahl said.

Myers has had older brothers swim at the state meet in the past for Austin and now it’s his turn to get in the big pool.

“I watched my brothers swim and I saw them go to state,” Myers said. “I wanted to do it too and I’m really excited to go to state for the first time.”

Evenson started swimming a little later than most, but he’s made big strides over the past couple of years. Now he’s a fixture in the lineup for a team that is ready to do some big things.

“Last year I dropped quite a bit on my time and this year, it really came together,” Evenson said. “Our seniors have led us throughout the year and they push us in practice.”

Cabeen said the state meet is the reward for a long season of improvement and hard work.

“We compete constantly in practice and that helps us in the big meets,” Cabeen said.

Ferguson, a junior, is back after a one year hiatus as state. He was motivated by missing out on the big diving meet last year.

“I’ve matured a lot and learned a lot about body control,” Ferguson said. “Last year, a huge fire was lit. The first thing that came out of my mouth after not making it to state, was that I was coming back for revenge this year.”

Class A diving preliminaries will take place at noon Thursday, the swimming  preliminaries will be held at 11 a.m. Friday and the swimming finals will be held at noon Saturday. All events will be held at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.


200-medley relay: The team of Brent Dahl, Winston Walkup, Joey Hilkin and Kenny Cabeen is seeded fourth with a time of 1:38.84

200-freestyle: Zach Evenson is seeded seventh with a time of 1:48.39.

200-individual medley: Winston Walkup is seeded eighth with a time of 2:01.70.

50-freestyle: Kenny Cabeen is seeded 14th with a time of 22.35.

100-butterfly: Joey Hilkin is seeded 17th with a time of 55.23.

100-freestyle: Kenny Cabeen is seeded 12th with a time of 49.33 and Zach Evenson 22nd with a time of 49.83.

500-freestyle: Brent Dahl is seeded seventh with a time of 4:52.55

200-freestyle relay: The team of Zach Evenson, Joey Hilkin, Lucas Myers, Kenny Cabeen is seventh with a time of 1:30.31.

100-backstroke: Winston Walkup is seeded eighth with a time of 54.48 and Brent Dahl is seeded 11th with a time of 55.38.

400-freestyle relay: The team of Zach Evenson, Brent Dahl, Winston Walkup and Lucas Myers is seeded 14th with a time of 3:22.45.