Mar. 13—Owen Nord and Ethan Yao are friendly rivals and the two Rochester swimmers had a pair of epic races against each other during the Section 1AA boys swimming and diving meet on Friday.
The two seniors squared off in the same heat in the same pod at the unique meet held at the Rochester Recreation Center. The meet was held in two pods and each swimmer had just one swim to determine his outcome. Century and Mayo were in the same pod as John Marshall, Owatonna and Hastings.
Squaring off in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, Nord nipped Yao in both races. Both swimmers earned state berths in the two individual events as well as one relay.
"It felt good to win, especially because I was getting to race a friend," Nord said. "We've been pretty good friends since we started swimming when we were 8. It's always fun to race each other."
Nord, a senior at Century, repeated as the champion in the 50 freestyle with a personal-best time of 20.84. Yao, a senior at Mayo, was a close second in 21.05.
With no prelims to ease into the meet, Yao was uncertain how he would do. But he started off strong by anchoring the 200 medley relay with a time of 20.5, which secured a state berth for Mayo.
"I had a renewed confidence in that event," Yao said of the 50 freestyle. "Going into it, I told myself I wasn't going to be that unhappy if I lost to Owen. I just wanted a good time, and wanted to get the team record, which I did in both the 50 and 100 (freestyle)."
In the 100 freestyle, Nord posted a winning time of 46.29, another personal best.
"It was definitely a little bit tougher since I couldn't gage what the rest of my competition was doing," Nord said. "But I've done a few timed final meets before so it wasn't anything new."
Yao was just a fraction of a second off the pace in the 100 freestyle in 46.44. He set personal bests and school records in both the sprint freestyle events in the meet. A year ago Yao earned individual state berths in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. He changed from the backstroke to the 100 freestyle this year, partly because of Nord.
"I just like racing Owen because of the energy," Yao said. "We both know we're talented swimmers and to me it doesn't really matter how the outcome is at the end, as long as we both have fun and make each other better in the pool."
Nord teamed with Nathan Kram, Jameson Bargfrede, Jackson Homme to place second in the 200 freestyle relay and earn a state berth. Century's 400 freestyle relay just missed advancing as it placed third.
"It's really nice to get a relay going up because then you get to share the experience with the other guys on the team that maybe weren't so fortunate to make it in the individuals (events)," Nord said.
Yao swam with Logan Atkinson, Ignacio Michelena, Aiden Johnson to earn a state berth in the 200 medley relay. The foursome placed fourth, but earned a state berth based on time standard.
Lakeville South scored 393.5 points to win the team title while Lakeville North was second with 346. Century was fourth in the nine-team event, Mayo was seventh and John Marshall finished ninth.
The meet was held with no fans or media allowed inside the Rec Center. Only the swimmers, coaches and working officials were on hand.
"It felt a little different, there was no one here," Yao said. "There were no awards, no podium, nothing."
The Class AA state swimming and diving meet is next week at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. The one-day swimming portion will be held on Friday and no fans or media will be allowed at the state event either.
1. Lakeville South 393.5, 2. Lakeville North 346, 3. Northfield 267, 4. Century 258, 5. Farmington 250, 6. Hastings 246, 7. Mayo 199, 8. Owatonna 123.5, 9. John Marshall 73.
1. Lakeville North— 1:36.98. 4. Mayo— (Logan Atkinson, Ignacio Michelena, Aiden Johnson, Ethan Yao) 1:38.39. 7. Century (Aidan Nord, Nate Kram, Ethan Werts, Drew Shin) 1:43.97.
1. Owen Teague— (LN) 1:42.02, 3. Jackson Homme (Cent) 1:48.48, 5. Bryan Chen (Mayo) 1:50.83, 7. Jameson Bargfrede (Cent) 1:51.09.
1. Gage Boushee— (LS) 1:55.82.
1. Owen Nord— (Cent) 20.84, 2. Ethan Yao— (Mayo) 21.05, 8. Nate Kram (Cent) 22.58.
1. Keegan Gare— (LS) 451.25, 5. Kevin Bossou (JM) 298.90.
1. Dalton Bild (LS) 51.68, 5. Aiden Johnson (Mayo) 54.75.
1. Owen Nord— (Cent) 46.29, 2. Ethan Yao— (Mayo) 46.44, 8. Aidan Nord (Cent) 49.32.
1. Owen Teague— (LN) 4:36.95, 4. Jackson Homme (Cent) 5:01.89, 7. Bryan Chen (Mayo) 5:05.34.
1. Lakeville South— 1:27.76, 2. Century— (O.Nord, Nathan Kram, Jameson Bargfrede, Jackson Homme) 1:28.60, 8. Mayo (Anthony Presnall, Braden Heywood, Neil Tollefson, Graham Sine) 1:40.35.
1. Philip Jensen— (Hastings) 52.01, 4. Logan Atkinson (Mayo) 55.31, 8. Aidan Nord (Cent) 57.99.
1. Dalton Bild (LS) 58.48, 7. Ignaciou Michelena (Mayo) 1:02.36, 8. Nate Kram (Cent) 1:02.40.
1. Lakeville North— 3:13.14, 3. Century (Owen Nord, Aidan Nord, Jensen Richard, Jackson Homme) 3:16.82, 6. Mayo (Ethan Yao, Bryan Chen, Logan Atkinson, Aiden Johnson) 3:22.39