Mission accomplishedWildcat senior Eric Emerson had waited and worked four years for this moment.
Wildcat senior Eric Emerson had waited and worked four years for this moment.
“I’ve been working for this since my freshman year,” Emerson said about touching the wall in Madison Friday and realizing he had just won the 100 freestyle title at the WIAA State Swimming and Diving Championships. “It’s been a dream to win state and I accomplished it. I got the dream, and it feels good.”
It was Emerson’s fourth, and final, attempt at the 100 freestyle championship. He finished 12th as a freshman in 2006 and placed third in both 2007 and 2008 before winning the title this season.
“It was like a relief,” he said. “It made the whole season feel like it had a purpose.”
Emerson’s time of 47.73 seconds gave him the state title ahead of second place Ben Lonsdorf of Rhinelander, who was right behind in 47.96. It came two races after Emerson had taken third in the 50 freestyle finals with a personal best time of 21.59 seconds. Just 0.68 of a second separated the top four finishers in the 50 free.
“I was really happy with that time,” he said. “I expected a little better place but I can’t really complain about my time. The other kids had really good swims.”
Emerson also competed on the Cats’ 400 freestyle relay team along with senior Mason Saari, sophomore Andrew Yelken and junior Roland Pomfret. The foursome finished 14th with a time of 3:26.24.
Wildcat head coach Brady McAdams said this year was one of the largest contingents River Falls has sent to the state meet. In addition to Emerson’s two individual events and the 400 freestyle relay, Pomfret finished 11th in the 500 freestyle in 5:04.38 and sophomore Tim Weller placed 15th in the 100 backstroke in 59.92 seconds.
Weller, senior Troy Veith, Yelken and junior Navid Rahgozar competed in the 200 medley relay and finished 16th in 1:48.75 while senior Ben Lowery finished 16th in the diving competition with a score of 246.55.
“These guys showed a lot of character,” McAdams said. “There was only so much we could push them. They had to do the rest by themselves.”
Saari, the team’s co-captain along with Emerson, said having so many Wildcats end the year at state made all the hard work worthwhile.
“It was a really long season, but a lot of fun,” he said. “It was a lot of hard work, swimming all those yards. But I think we did pretty well.”
McAdams said many of this year’s swimmers were first-year competitors who didn’t make it to state, but still played a major role in the team’s success. They also found themselves benefitting from all the hard work in practice.
“We had just a great group of seniors who showed a lot of leadership,” he said. “I think it brings meaning to the season. There were a lot of first-year swimmers who stuck with it, and those guys now are defined.”
“But Navid hates it when you call him ripped,” Saari noted.
Emerson, who competed at the state meet in a total of 15 different races over his four-year career, said he’s looking forward to continuing to swim competitively in college.
“I think I ended my high school career on a really good note,” he said. “I’m excited to take a little break and look forward to college. I don’t know where yet, but it should be fun.”