THE GRAFTON BOYSâ€™ swimming and diving team will be well-represented at Fridayâ€™s WIAA Division 2 state meet in the University of Wisconsin Natatorium in Madison. Representing the Black Hawks will be (clockwise from upper left) Al Nennig, Brad Kempka, Austin Schaut, Zach Greenwood, Mark Rosenberg and Chris Rose.
Photo by Sam Arendt
Nennig, Greenwood, two relays rise to occasion with state-qualifying efforts
After making a few ripples with a competitive group of state qualifiers last season, the Grafton boysâ€™ swimming and diving squad is poised for a much bigger splash this year.
Led by a pair of wins from sophomore Al Nennig, the Black Hawks had three individuals and two relay teams advance from last weekendâ€™s Plymouth Sectional to this Fridayâ€™s WIAA Division 2 finals in Madison.
Nennig won the 50-yard freestyle (in a team-record 22.11 seconds) and the 100 breaststroke (59.4) to qualify for state along with freshman Zach Greenwood, who placed seventh in diving (250.35 points).
Graftonâ€™s other state representatives will be the 400 freestyle team of Brad Kempka, Chris Rose, Austin Schaut and Nennig (second in 3:26.5) and the 200 freestyle team of Kempka, Mark Rosenberg, Rose and Schaut (third in 1:34.39).
â€śIt was an excellent meet for us. Iâ€™m really proud of the way the kids swam,â€ť said Grafton coach Mark Minz, whose team finished fifth in the sectional standings with 261 points.
â€śAl had two outstanding individual performances, and we had a diver qualify, which was a nice surprise. We were hoping to get all three relays through but came up a little short there.â€ť
Narrowly missing a trip to state was the Hawksâ€™ 200 medley team of Nennig, Josh Govek, Brandon Marshall and Schaut, whose fifth-place time of 1:44.6 was a fraction behind the 1:1:44.49 qualifying standard.
Cedarburg won the sectional title easily with 345 points. Brown Deer/University School took second with 290 points, and Plymouth was third with 277.
Among other local squads in the 12-team field, Port Washington was seventh with 170 points.
Nennig dominated his individual events, breaking his own team mark in the 50 freestyle. He will enter the Division 2 finals with the top qualifying time in the breaststroke and third-fastest time in the 50 freestyle.
Both events are changes for Nennig, who placed fifth in the 100 backstroke and sixth in the 200 individual medley at last yearâ€™s state meet.
â€śAl is looking strong and looking forward to hopefully even faster times at state,â€ť Minz said. â€śHe decided to try two different events this year and has worked very hard on them.â€ť
Greenwood has the lowest sectional score among the 16 state-qualifying divers but has become one of Graftonâ€™s most pleasant surprises. He didnâ€™t join the team until late December, and only after being recruited by diving coach Dennis Hubert, Minz
â€śZach is very athletic and a very quick learner,â€ť he said. â€śHe missed the first three or four weeks of the season, but skill-wise, heâ€™s a natural for diving.â€ť
The Hawks have an excellent chance to improve on their finish in last yearâ€™s state meet, when they placed 16th with 59 points.
Grafton had several other top-10 individual finishes in the sectional meet, including a fifth by Kempka in the 100 freestyle (51.78), sixths by Kempka in the 50 freestyle (23.71) and Rose in the 100 freestyle (52.47), sevenths by Schaut in the 50 freestyle
(23.71) and Govek in the breaststroke (1:08.04), ninth by Marshall in the 100 butterfly (1:01.9) and 10ths by Rose in the 50 freestyle (23.99), Govek in the 200 individual medley (2:02.75) and Marshall in the 100 backstroke (1:05.48).
Portâ€™s top finish came from sophomore Alex Mehre, who took fifth in the butterfly (1:00.44).
The Piratesâ€™ other individual efforts included a sixth from David Antoine in the backstroke (1:02.1); seventh by Connor LaCosse in the 500 freestyle (5:32.04); eighth by Tim Walch in the butterfly (1:01.4); ninths from Walch in the individual medley
(2:20.36), Schaefer in the 100 freestyle (54.59) and Jake Verfuerth in the backstroke (1:04.89); and 10th by LaCosse in the 200 freestyle 1:59.68).
Portâ€™s best relay finish was a sixth by the 400 freestyle team of Antoine, Mehre, LaCosse and Schaefer (3:44.63).
Pirates coach Alex Kultgen said his young team did its best in a talent-laden meet.
â€śI thought we had an outside shot at getting Mehre or Antoine through to state, but it didnâ€™t work out,â€ť he said. â€śOur level of swimming is just not at the level we had to be at to qualify.â€ť
Fridayâ€™s Division 2 state meet at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium will begin with diving competition at 2:30 p.m. Swimming finals start at 6:30 p.m.