Although the Rhinelander High School boys' swim team won five of the 11 events on Tuesday night, they only competing with eight swimmers and were able to keep up with the Hatchets. The Hodags fell at Tomahawk 92-66 in their Great Northern Conference opening dual.
Rhinelander was only able to have the maximum amount of scoring swimmers in four of the events of the night, but had several notable finishes on the night.
The Hodags' started the dual strong and won the opening 200 medley relay team in convincing fashion. Rhinelander's Joseph Heck, Thaddeus Heck, David King, and Russell Benoy earned the win with a time of 1 minute, 51.62 seconds which was 19.79 seconds faster than Tomahawk's A relay team.
After being part the opening winning 200 medley relay team, Benoy earned two individual wins to follow. He finished edged out teammate Devon Gaber in the 50-yard freestyle by only 0.02 seconds, clocking in with a winning time of 24.53 seconds. Benoy also took the 100-yard backstroke, clocking in at 1:04.41 beating Jacob Miller of Tomahawk to the wall by 6.38 seconds.
Gaber recorded two personal-best times including his runner-up finish to Benoy in the 50, and also in the 100-yard freestyle where he finished first. Gaber clocking in with a winning time of 55.66 seconds to beat Tomahawk's Tom Reiter to the wall by 1.19 seconds. Thaddeus Heck also added a win in the 100-yard breaststroke, finishing at 1:08.93 which was 11.1 seconds ahead of Evan Ploeckelman of the Hatchets.
Along with their four first-place finishes, Rhinelander also added five runner-up finishes on the night. King had a personal-best after finishing second in the 100-yard butterfly, clocking in at 59.20 seconds. King also earned a runner-up finish in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 2:12.69.
Joseph Heck earned two of the Hodags' runner-up finishes. He was second in the 200-yard individual medley, finishing at 2:25.55, behind Tomahawk's Travis Phillips. He also took second in the 500-yard freestyle (5:59.03), finishing behind Kole Svacina of the Hatchets.
And in the final event, Rhinelander earned second in the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:53.82. The Hodag team of Gaber, J. Heck, King, and Benoy was beat to the wall by Tomahawk's A relay by 0.88 seconds.
Rhinelander will be back in the pool on Thursday night when they travel to Medford for another GNC dual. The Hodags' will have their home opener on Thursday, December 7th against Antigo, before they host the Hodag Relays on Saturday, December 9th.
The Rhinelander High School boys' swimming team remains optimistic about their 2017-2018 season despite their varsity roster only having nine swimmers and a new coaching staff, they will be without one of their top swimmers from last season. Although Rhinelander's numbers are low, they proved in the past they can overcome these challenges.
Co-head coaches Jenny Heck and Marna Winnicki will take over the lead for RHS boys' swimming, after closing the fall season coaching the RHS girls' swim team after RHS did not extend former coach Lindsay Byrka's contract. Brent Olson, Dan Jesse, and Jon Koch will also be assistant coaches this season.
One of Rhinelander's most difficult challenges going into the season, will be trying to compete for a GNC title with only nine swimmers. Without a full-varsity lineup, the Hodags will already be one step behind in their dual meets, which will count toward the teams' final conference standings, unlike the varsity girls'.
Another obstacle Rhinelander will face for the 2017-2018 will be competing with junior Nolan Francis, who decided not to go out for swimming this season. Francis played a hand in all four events that RHS qualified for state last season. He not only set the 200-yard individual medley record last season, he earned a sixth-place finish at state. Francis also finished sixth in the 100-butterfly at state and was part of the Hodags' state 200-freestyle and 200-medley relay teams.
Even without one of the teams' top swimmers from last year and a nine-man roster, the Hodags return several quality swimmers which include five who competed at state one season ago. Junior Russell Benoy will be back for the Hodags and was part of both the state relay teams as well as second team all-conference swimmer in the 100 freestyle.
Sophomores Thaddeus Heck and David King are also set to return and both swam the state medley. Heck earned a third-place finish in the GNC meet and sectionals in the 100 breaststroke. King also recorded a third-place finish in the GNC in the 200 IM. Sophomore Devon Gaber and junior Martin Hoger also return and were part of the state freestyle relay.
The Hodags will also have four first-year varsity swimmers to their lineup including freshmen Joseph Heck and Hugh Wiese as well seniors Matt Herman and Jack Kovac.
Rhineland finished fifth last season in the GNC standings, but with only nine swimmers their focus will mainly be on the WIAA sectionals and state meet, as competing for the conference title may be out of reach without a full-lineup.
Three years ago, RHS finally made their way back to the WIAA state swimming meet, after not sending anyone for seven consecutive years. While in 2015-2016, the Hodags' used an 11-man lineup to earn the Great Northern Conference title over rival Lakeland. And in 2016-2017 even after a nearly three-week delay in their season, they still qualified for state in four different events.
The Hodags will kick off their season with two straight conference duals. First the Hodags will travel to Tomahawk on Tuesday night and will then be on the road Thursday night at Medford. Rhinelander’s home opener will not be until December 7th, when they host Antigo. RHS will then host the Hodag Relays at the Heck Family Community Pool on Saturday December, 9th.
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