The Rhinelander High School boys' swim team and Coach Jenny Heck are optimistic as they start the 2018-2019 season and return several swimmers who qualified for state as they strive for the Great Northern Conference title this season as well looking for success at sectionals and will look to send a number of swimmers to state.
Although the Hodags finished fourth in the conference standings at 3-6-1, and placed ahead of only Medford and Antigo they know they will be competing for the top of the conference this season. Lakeland won the GNC title last season and went 10-0 and graduated a pair of their top swimmers; Jack Garcia and Grant Gibson who both won sectional titles last season.
This season Rhinelander has enough athletes to fill their full varsity lineup, with 12 swimmers on their roster. But without depth, RHS will not to attempt to make it through the season without injuries or illnesses and will need everyone to contribute.
Even with small numbers, the Hodags return seven state qualifiers and have a number of versatile swimmers that can swim multiple events. Cousins Joseph and Thaddeus Heck, Russell Benoy, Martin Hoger, David King, Devon King, as well as senior Nolan Francis will return to the lineup.
Rhinelander returns their sectional lineup who placed third out of 11 teams at the River Falls Division 2. RHS returns their 200-medley relay sectional champions of Hoger, T. Heck, King, and Benoy who went on the place 12th at state. RHS finished seventh in their best finish at state with the team of J. Heck, Hoger, Gaber and Benoy in the 200-yard freestyle relay.
While in the individual events Thaddeus Heck finished 13th in the 100-breast and Joseph Heck placed 15th and were both only seperated by 0.09 seconds. Benoy competed in both relays along with the 50 and 100 freestyle, and finished 10th in the 50 and 14th in the free. While King placed 14th at state in the 100-fly.
Not only will Rhinelander return their full state lineups and they will also get a boost with senior Nolan Francis back in the lineup. Last season Francis opted to swim at the club level. As a sophomore Francis made the podium at state and finished sixth in a pair of events and also set the school record for the 200-yard individual medley.
Although Rhinelander struggled with depth last season and gave up a number of points because the didn't fill a full lineup, they have a solid 12 seasons and will keep pushing to be on top of the conference as they set their sites even higher and look to return a number of swimmers to sectional and state this season. The Hodags will kick off their 2018-2019 season on Tuesday when they host Tomahawk for a dual meet at Heck Family Community Pool at 5:30PM.