It lined the backs of shirts worn by countless Memorial fans, swimmers, and parents: Nulli secundus—Latin for “Second to none.” Maybe it’s cocky, but not for Memorial’s Boys Swimming team, who cruised to their third straight State Championship on Saturday, February 16 at the UW Natatorium.
The team was seeded way ahead of their biggest threat (West) but they didn’t indulge in their more or less 80-point cushion. They were focused, ready, and confident, without relaxation or arrogance. After their win, Head Coach Paul Eckerle talked about his team’s attitude leading up to the meet: “The mindset was to show up on the day of the meet and show that we’re the best.” And they didn’t let any team forget that. The Spartans won with an outstanding 110-point margin over rival West, and finished with a total score of 316 points. The last Division 1 team to break 300 was… Memorial, last year. But before that it was Arrowhead in 2004. That was one of their goals, Coach Paul said, to break 300. But the bigger hope was that everyone would move up ahead of his seeded place, and almost everyone did.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of moving up was Nick Menninga’s performance in the 100-Yard Freestyle. Nick swam in lane 7—the sixth seed—which isn’t good since it’s harder to tell what’s going on in the race. Nick had beaten everyone in the race before; however, he had a bad swim at Sectionals, and Sectionals determines the seeds at State. He was confident, but coming into the last stroke, he saw everyone else’s arms reaching for the wall. Recalling his thoughts from that moment, Nick said all he was thinking was “Touch the wall, Nick!” He touched it, and it turned out he touched it first, securing his State Championship in the event. It was his second individual title of the day. The first came when he won the 50 Free with an All-American qualifying time of 20.81 seconds. Even so, the 100 still means more to him, Nick said, because of the pacing, strategy, and technique involved with the longer race.
Nick would go on to help two relays—the 200 and 400 Freestyles—win gold, making him the only swimmer at the State meet with four first place finishes. Looking back on his freshman year, with (according to him) his awkward stroke and lack of strength, Nick says four State titles seemed like “an unreachable goal.” But his hard-work, like that of all Memorial swimmers, paid off. And the work paid off in exciting fashion.
In the 200 Freestyle Relay, the Spartans were several strokes behind at the end of the third leg. Anthony Walker, who led off the race, thought “it was going to be a tough one to come back even with Nick swimming.” But Nick was catching West’s Andrew Lindstrom with every stroke, and buoyed by Nick’s extraordinary 19.95 second split (it’s very rare to break 20 seconds), Memorial swam to victory and another event State Championship with an All-American qualifying time. Alex Peterson-Weber and Nathan Eckerle rounded out Memorial’s relay.
Jeremy Temprano was Memorial’s other individual State Champion. He won the 200 Yard Individual Medley against two-time State Champion Alex DeLakis from Eau Claire Memorial/North. “I did feel a lot of pressure because I knew I had a good shot at winning it, but the only thing on my mind was my race,” Jeremy explained. The only thing on his mind after the race was his win. And he showed it, with arms thrown up and a roar echoing throughout the Natatorium—victory in his eyes.
Only later did Jeremy realize the significance of his win: “I realized [that] that swim could have opened doors for me in my college decision.” Jeremy is referring to the possibility of his swimming for UW. UW has already given their one swimming scholarship to none other than Alex DeLakis, but Jeremy’s victory over DeLakis may provide Jeremy with a place on the Badger squad. He is also considering swimming for Iowa.
Jeremy also swam on the State Championship relay with Henry Patterson, John Hornacek, and Ben Immerfall in the 200 Medley. Jeremy’s third gold came in the 400 Freestyle Relay with Anthony, John, and Nick. In talking about the differences between winning an individual State title and a relay State title, Jeremy had this to say: “On a relay you are racing for your teammates and the feeling is incredible because you know you helped your team win it. Individually is also a great feeling but it is nice to share a win with your teammates.”
It is especially nice when you’re sharing a State record. The 400 Freestyle Relay team of Jeremy Temprano, Anthony Walker, John Hornacek, and Nick Menninga shattered the previous record, set by—you guessed it—Jeremy, John, and Nick, along with alumnus Patrick Franken last year. They swam a time of 3:04.89, more than a second faster than last year’s record, and more than three seconds faster than the All-American qualifying time. While talking about that race, Nick said it’s “crazy to think that we blew the record out of the water [excuse the pun] last year, and that this year we did it again.” The Relay was Memorial’s “icing on the cake,” as Nick called it, since they didn’t even need to race to win the meet; they were just going for the record. Indeed, they were second to none.
Anthony called that relay the “most exciting race of [his] career,” and the “perfect race to end” on. Apparently, it was also one of the most exciting races for junior Sam Szotkowski, who was already “jacked” from his first State swim in the 100 Breaststroke (he swam very well and won his heat) and had “never been more excited.” Sam punched a wall after the 400 Free Relay in the heat of the moment—blinded with passion—and his pinky still hurts.
As the team looks forward to next season, they are starting to think about how they can fill the holes of the seniors who have played such a huge role in their success this year. Coach Paul said that “hopefully a new slate of guys coming up can step up.” It’s almost assured. With studly juniors like John Hornacek, Sam Szotkowski, and Nathan Eckerle, sophomores Ryan Menninga and Alex Peterson-Weber, and freshmen Baird Miller and Justin Temprano—all having State experience now, and with many more ready to jump in—Memorial should be able to continue their legacy. Nick, who will be swimming for UW-Milwaukee next year, agrees: “We are a team that can reload and come back stronger.” And if the past three seasons are any indication of what’s to come, the Spartans will come back Better, Faster, and Stronger than any other team in the state.
By Thejas Wesley Photo by Monika Ford (for more state winning photos check out Monika’s facebook photo album)