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Swimming and diving: Baar, Larsen off to state

River Falls junior Seth Larsen, shown competing at the Big Rivers Conference Championships Feb. 2 in Hudson, qualified for this weekend's WIAA State Championships in the 50 freestyle with a fourth place time of 22.62 seconds at the sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 9, in Stevens Point. File photo 1 / 2
River Falls sophomore Connor Baar flashes a thumbs-up from the starting blocks before competing in the 500 yard freestyle at the WIAA Division 2 boys swimming and diving sectional at UW-Stevens Point Saturday, Feb. 9. Barr finished second with a time of 5 minutes, 5.9 seconds to qualify for this weekend's state meet in Madison. Submitted photo 2 / 2

Junior Connor Baar and sophomore Seth Larsen will represent River Falls at the WIAA Division 2 State Swimming and Diving Championships this weekend after qualifying at the sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 9, in Stevens Point.

Baar placed second in the 500 yard freestyle with a time of 5 minutes, 5.9 seconds to earn his spot at state while Larsen advanced with a fourth place time of 22.62 seconds in the 50 freestyle.

The Wildcats finished fourth at the 10-team sectional with 231 points, just 11 points behind third-place Menomonie. Rhinelander won the team title with 377.

River Falls coach Caitlin Brudzinski said it's been a challenging few weeks for the Cats with all the cancelled practices due to the weather, but they stepped up on Saturday.

"It has been an interesting couple of weeks due to the weather, but they really swam hard and it was so much fun to see the success everyone had," she said.

All but one Wildcat swimmer finished in the top 16 in their respective races to contribute points towards the Cats' team score, and of the 18 individual swims, 13 had season best times—including Baar and Larsen.

Baar's time of 5:05.9 was five seconds out of first place and 23 seconds ahead of the third place finisher. Baar also finished third in the 200 freestyle in 1:53.38.

In addition to Larsen's fourth-place state qualifying time in the 50 freestyle the junior also placed seventh in the 100 butterfly in 59.1 seconds, another season-best.

Freshman Darin Derks just missed joining Baar at state in the 500 free with a fourth place time of 5:29.44 and was eighth in the 200 individual medley in 2:24.64, while junior Anders Olson was fifth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.81 and seventh in the 200 IM in 2:24.34.

All three Wildcat relays also placed in the top eight, led by the 200 freestyle relay team of Larsen, Olson, junior Nate Lawrence and Baar with a fourth place time of 1:37.15.

In the 200 medley relay, freshman Shawn Derks, Olson, Larsen and Lawrence teamed up for a fifth place time of 1:51.71, and in the 400 freestyle relay, Baar, senior Derick Graves, sophomore Zach Martin and Darin Derks placed seventh in 3:52.1.

This will be the first state tournament appearance for Baar and the second for Larsen. He competed at last year's state meet as a member of the Cats' 400 freestyle relay team.

The WIAA Division 2 State Championships will be held this Friday, Feb. 15, at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium.

"It was a good end to the season for most of the team and we're looking forward to state for Connor and Seth," Brudzinski said.

Bob Burrows

Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.

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