It was a big day for the Edwardsville High School’s swimming and diving team.
Not only did the Tigers qualify a member of its team for the state swim meet in Evanston next week. And not only did Edwardsville finish second overall as a team, but hosting it’s first-ever IHSA Boys Sectional Meet in the Chuck Fruit Aquatic Center went off without a hitch.
“Hosting a meet is very special for our program,” said coach Brad Bevis. “Anytime we can have this big of a meet with this big of a turnout is really special for everyone involved. This is the type of event that this pool was built for.”
The pool looked like it was built for the Tigers’ Brian Baggette.
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The Edwardsville junior led a solid corps of local qualifiers by racing to the win in the 500-yard freestyle. Baggette’s time of 4:42.46 not only crushed the state qualifying standard of 4:45.95, but was his personal best as well.
“It feels great,” said Baggette, who will be making his first trip to the state meet. “I was a little nervous and a little excited, just pre-race jitters I guess. My strategy was to stay just ahead on the first half and then beat them on the back half, that worked really well I guess.”
Bevis felt that Baggette’s effort in the sectional was a direct result of the time spent in the pool.
“To go 4:42 today is a validation of his training and his commitment and everything he has put into this season to get where he is,” Bevis said. “I know he would like to break 4:40 at the state meet and that would be a huge accomplishment. He really is a fantastic swimmer and we are looking for a good showing from him in Evanston.”
Collinsville senior Vinnie O’Connor also punched his ticket to the state meet with a win in the 50 freestyle. O’Connor turned in a solid 21.91 time to earn his first-ever trip to the state finals.
“I was doing bad at practice all week so I was nervous that I wasn’t going to make it … I’m just so excited that I actually get to go,” O’Connor said. “I was absolutely flying on the first lap. I did the flip-turn and I looked over and saw the other people still going into the wall, so that gave me a little boost to finish the race. It just felt all-around fast.”
East sophomore Logan Theiss returns to the state meet in the 100 backstroke after winning the event with a time of 51.97. Two other swimmers beat the state’s qualifying time of 1:00.30, one of which was Mascoutah freshman Cole Junker who placed third with a 52.37.
“It’s good to get in there and get a good backstroke time because last year I went for the (100) butterfly and backstroke,” said Theiss. “I false started in the butterfly and in the backstroke my goggles filled up with water right at the start, so it wasn’t my best performances by far. But I’m glad I’m going back to get another chance at it.”
Junker also qualified in the 200 individual medley as his second place finish of 1:56.97 was ahead of the state qualifying standard of 1:58.14. Highland junior Ben Thomae will join Junker in Evanston as his third-place time of 1:57.85 was also ahead of the qualifying time.
Perennial swimming power Springfield High School won the event with 298 points, qualifying seven individuals and three relay teams. Edwardsville was second with 183 points and O’Fallon third with 151.
“We had a better meet than I figured we would,” said Bevis. “Brian had a good day, but there were so many other swims that were so strong and so surprising. We started off the meet with a nice swim in the 200 medley relay early and the energy kept going from there.”