The Eagan boys’ swimming team pulled off the unthinkable a year ago, winning the Class 2A state team crown without an individual champion. It would like nothing better than to successfully defend its title.
To do so, the Wildcats are going to have to be even better than a year ago. They are ranked third, behind No. 1 Eden Prairie and No. 2 Minnetonka.
“While we are strong in our conference [South Suburban] and section this season, both Eden Prairie and Minnetonka have incredible teams at the state level,” Eagan coach Chris Morgan said.
Eagan found that out last weekend at the True Team state meet. It finished a distant third behind champion Minnetonka (2,430 points) and Eden Prairie (2,120.5 points). The Wildcats had 1,705 points.
Last year’s championship season brought an end to the dominance by the Lake Conference, where Eden Prairie and Minnetonka reside. Schools from the Lake had won the previous seven state team titles.
“We will need to have another extraordinary finish to our season, and qualify enough depth to keep chipping away for points at state,” Morgan said. “With the Lake Conference’s talent level, it’s our best shot.”
The Wildcats finished 16 points ahead of runner-up Minnetonka in 2015. Eden Prairie was another 16 points back in third.
“The teams in the Lake are very good,” Eagan senior Parker Lemke said. “I have so much respect for them.”
The Wildcats finished eighth at the state meet in 2014, setting the stage for last year’s surprising finish. Wayzata, another Lake Conference school, won the crown that year.
“Our goal was to win state after that season,” Lemke said. “We had a strong group coming back.”
Much like they do this season.
“I feel we’re a little better than last year,” Lemke said. “We lost two seniors to graduation, but everybody else who returned is faster.”
Lemke, a Gophers recruit, started swimming as a 10-year-old, He began competing competitively at age 12.
“I have always been around the University of Minnesota, but I didn’t know that I would end up going there,” Lemke said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Lemke started out a freestyle sprinter before switching to distance. The last couple of years he has developed into one of the state’s top breaststroker. In the True Team state meet, he won the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 51.84 seconds.
“I’m happy with how I’ve performed up to this point,” Lemke said. “I have pretty high goals of myself.”
Senior diver Alex Crow was Eagan’s only other individual champion in the True Team event. Dominic Lemieux, also a senior, finished third in diving. They both finished in the top four a year ago.
“Our divers performed great and so did our swimmers, especially our relays [all three of which finished in the top four], last year in the state meet,” Lemke said. “It’s not going to come down to how one or two individuals do at the state meet. It takes everybody doing well in order to win state.”
An accomplishment that is difficult to duplicate. The state meet is March 3-5.
“It’s hard enough to win one state championship, much less repeat as champion,” Lemke said. “The first championship was so surreal. After accomplishing it, you want to it again.
“To win two would be amazing. It would be a great accomplishment for the team, our program and the school.”