Seven vets, one freshman will keep striving to get better in 2020-21
MEDFORD BOYS SWIM PREVIEW
The Medford Raiders don’t have a deep roster and they’re not going to wow people with eye-popping times in the pool.
But the small, senior-laden group of guys is always going to strive to improve their technique and improve their times with each opportunity they get to swim, which is a perfect attitude to have as they embark on an uncertain 2020-21 season.
Medford opened the new boys swim season on Nov. 23 with just eight swimmers and know they’ll be losing one at the end of the month. Five of the eight current swimmers are seniors. Two are returning sophomores and the eighth man, Adam Swedlund, is a freshman who has come up through the club ranks from a young age.
The Raiders debuted Tuesday with an 86-72 home loss to Shawano, the first of eight Great Northern Conference dual meets they hope to get in this winter if they and their opponents can navigate through the current health pandemic.
“They’re funny and they’re fun to be around,” sixth-year head coach Shari Bergman said of this year’s group. They may not be the best at what they’re doing, but they’ve always had each other’s backs with everything and anything. Positive mental attitude is what our motto has been for four years now. There’s a lot to be said for that.”
The seven veterans are coming off a 2019-20 season where the Raiders went 2-7-1 in GNC duals and placed fifth out of six teams in the Great Northern Conference meet. Medford placed ninth in the 11-team WIAA Division 2 sectional meet held at Wisconsin Rapids.
The five-man senior class includes three-time letter winners Isaac Dittrich and Abe Miller, two-time letter winners Ethan Kraemer and Tahtankka Damm and Nathan Sislo, who earned his first letter last winter.
Dittrich and Kraemer shared the team’s 2019-20 Most Valuable Swimmer award, while Sislo was voted its Most Improved Swimmer.
Miller and Damm started the season with individual wins on Tuesday. Damm took the 50-yard freestyle in his personalbest time of 26.81 seconds and Miller won the 100-yard butterfly in 1:14.8, a good start toward his quest to get under his personal-best of 1:10.28 by season’s end.
Damm figures to keep his role as the team’s quickest freestyle swimmer, but he has the capability to compete in the 100-yard butterfly as well. Miller has filled a variety of roles in his time as a Raider, swimming the butterfl y, the 200-yard individual medley, the 100-yard breaststroke and some freestyle events. He even swam the 100-yard backstroke Tuesday for the first time in his prep career.
“Between Abe and Tahtankka, we can interchange them in and out,” Bergman said. “Abe could certainly do the 200 IM as well.”
Dittrich is the Raiders’ top distance freestyler. Expect him to again fill spots in the 200-yard and 500yard freestyles.
“He would die if he couldn’t do the 500 or the 200,” Bergman said. “He’ll start crushing his times. He’s got a real good work ethic in the pool. He just keeps going. He doesn’t give up so it’s kind of nice to see that.”
Kraemer found his niche in the 100-yard backstroke, where he got his time down to 1:10.97 last year after starting the season in the 1:20s. Sislo started his junior season at 1:45 in the breaststroke and got that down to 1:18.81 by season’s end. He was down to 2:27.73 in the 200-yard freestyle at the end of the year after starting at 2:52.
“Nathan can swim 200, he can swim 100 and he likes breaststroke too,” Bergman said. “We’re just a little top heavy with breaststroke this year.” Sophomore Jacob Mitchell and Swedlund hold down those breaststroke spots to start. Swedlund won the event in this first meet Tuesday 1:23.57, 0.76 seconds ahead of Mitchell. Mitchell had a solid freshman season in the breaststroke and individual medley. Swedlund also swam the medley Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Raiders, Mitchell is moving and will be leaving the program at the end of the month. Dylan Kraemer, Ethan’s younger brother, is back after spending most of his freshman season in the backstroke and the 200 yard freestyle. With the lack of depth, health will be of the utmost importance as Medford tries to stay competitive with its GNC rivals. One of those rivals, Antigo, pulled the plug on its season Sunday, due to a lack of swimmers, leaving the conference with five teams for this year and leaving two holes in Medford’s schedule Dec. 8 and 15. Medford won a dual and tied the other against the Red Robins last year. The Raiders split with Shawano, who had 10 available swimmers in Tuesday’s meet with Medford.
Rhinelander went 10-0 in GNC duals last winter and won the conference meet. The Hodags’ swim program, both boys and girls, is the class of the conference right now. The Raiders will find out first-hand how good they are today, Thursday, when they meet the Hodags in Rhinelander.
Tomahawk and Lakeland typically feature solid programs as well. Tomahawk, however, is in the midst of a twoweek delay to their season. It will be determined that week if a Dec. 17 Tomahawk- at-Medford meet will happen on that date or be postponed.
The Raiders got through some minor quarantine issues in their first week of practice and are hoping for the best the rest of the way. Bergman said the motto for the year is to “just go with it,” knowing that schedules, lineups, etc. can change at a moment’s notice.
By WIAA mandate, the season has been shortened by three weeks. Practices started a week earlier than normal and the post-season will start two weeks earlier than normal. The GNC meet, which Shawano is scheduled to host, is set for Jan. 22. The WIAA is planning to conduct a sectional meet on Jan. 30 and a state meet on Feb. 5.
“The guys are working hard,” Bergman said. “They’ll continue working hard. It will actually be nice not having those two (Antigo) meets. I mean, it is, but it isn’t. It’s nice to be able to spend the time in practice that you know that you need to work on as a whole. That’s where we’re going with it. Put a positive in there and see what happens.”