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Boys swimming and diving: Willmar Cardinals focus on state meet

Willmar has some outstanding individuals, making the team put its emphasis on getting as many of them to Minneapolis as possible

Willmar eighth-grader Soren Newberg placed third in the 500-yard freestyle (6:09.13) behind St. Cloud Apollo junior Eric Malmanger (5:37.88) in first and sophomore Jonas Malmanger (5:52.79) on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021, in Willmar.
Willmar eighth-grader Soren Newberg placed third in the 500-yard freestyle (6:09.13) behind St. Cloud Apollo junior Eric Malmanger (5:37.88) in first and sophomore Jonas Malmanger (5:52.79) on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021, in Willmar.
Matthew Curry / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — The Willmar boys swimming and diving team will be low on numbers but big on positive attitude, according to head coach Carl Shuldes.

The Cardinals have 16 varsity swimmers listed prior to the season opener at home Thursday against St. Cloud Tech/Rocori. While that lack of depth will make it tough during the dual season, Willmar are looking for big things at season’s end.

“The guys are working really hard; they’re excited,” Shuldes said. “They understand that with the numbers that we have that dual meets might be kind of rough this year.

“They also understand that our goal is the section meet and getting as many swimmers into the state meet as possible. That’s kind of what their focus is, getting ready for that and moving on as far as they can.”

Led by six seniors, Willmar tied for sixth in the Central Lakes Conference last season. They also placed 18th in the Class A state meet with 29 points.

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This season, the Cardinals have a pair of seniors leading the way in Kale Bockelman and Kadin Brabender. Bockelman competed at state in diving in 2021. Brabender is penciled in as one of Willmar’s top sprinters.

Willmar sophomore Jacob Loerzel placed third in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:23.30 against St. Cloud Apollo on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021, in Willmar.
Willmar sophomore Jacob Loerzel placed third in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:23.30 against St. Cloud Apollo on Thursday, Dec.23, in Willmar.
West Central Tribune file photo

“We graduated a really strong senior class last year,” Shuldes said. “Sometimes, that’s tough for the next class coming in to replace that. I’ve been so impressed with Kadin and Kale so far with how they’ve stepped into leadership roles. They’re positive influences on the younger kids, so I’m very pleased with them so far.”

Two of Willmar’s six state swimmers from last season are back. Sophomore Evan Wallestad was part of the state 200-yard medley relay team. Then there’s David Lammers, who swam in the state 400 freestyle relay.

“They’ve set goals for themselves to hopefully advance in an individual event this year as well as getting a couple of relays through,” Shuldes said. “They have big goals, which is great.”

Shuldes added, “Hopefully some guys develop and we have a successful end of the year.”

More boys swimming and diving coverage:
Recent boys swimming and diving coverage from west central Minnesota.
Willmar swims past St. Cloud 107-71 in a Central Lakes Conference dual meet

Along with Brabender as a top sprinter, Shuldes has been impressed early on with freshman distance swimmer Soren Newberg.

“Even though he’s a ninth-grader, he’s a varsity veteran. He swam at sections in both seventh and eighth grade,” Shuldes said of Newberg. “We’re looking for him now to take that next step and maybe fill in a spot on a relay or take that next step in his individual races where he’s a guy that other teams have to take into account.”

For Brabender, Shuldes added, “sprints have always been one of our strengths and Kadin is the guy for us. We’re looking for Kadin to really step into that role as the leader.”

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One of Willmar’s top events could also be the 200 individual medley, with either Lammers or junior Jacob Loerzel taking on that role. But, Shuldes admits there’ll be plenty of tinkering with the lineup. He’s also letting the swimmers write some of their own workouts so they can have ownership over their success. The ultimate goal is to find the best swims and bring an out-sized contingent to the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center for state.

“We don’t have the numbers to be real deep in events,” Shuldes said, “but I think we can get a pretty respectable swimmer in most events.”

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