WAUKESHA — Ever since Ben Stitgen began his high school athletics career, he lived with a lofty goal.
He wanted to win the WIAA Division 2 state diving championship. Every. Single. Year.
Stitgen, a Madison Edgewood senior, accomplished that feat at the swimming and diving championship Friday at the Waukesha South Natatorium.
Stitgen finished first with 493.10 points and became the third state diver to win four championships in a prep career. Edgewood’s Ryan Jefferson earned four Division 2 titles from 2003-06 and Whitefish Bay’s Joe Kaszubowski won Division 2 titles from 2012-15, according to WIAA records.
“It’s been my goal since freshman year, so it’s great to pull it off,” Stitgen said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself, obviously. So, it feels great to win it four times in a row. That’s amazing to be among those people.”
He became the seventh individual in swimming and diving to be a four-time winner in the same event. The accomplishment now has occurred eight times because Monona Grove’s Ben McDade did it in two events — the 200 and 500 freestyle.
Crusaders junior Colin Senke was an individual double winner, establishing personal bests while winning the 100-yard butterfly and the 100 backstroke in the swimming portion of the meet Friday night.
“The excitement (of the meet) really just carried me through it,” Senke said. “The excitement from all the guys, especially on my team, boosted me through all those races. It was all because of this season and all the training. If (his teammates) weren’t there, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did today. I just am really excited.”
The other area champion was Baraboo senior Jacob Laux, who won the 100 breaststroke in a personal-best time.
“It was the final individual event of my high school career,” Laux said. “To win it, that is big for me.”
Second-ranked Cedarburg, which entered as the favorite in a meet projection and piled up 54 points in the opening diving event, won its first state boys swimming and diving championship.
Sophomore Isaac Fleig won the 200 individual medley and defended his 500 freestyle title and sophomore Matt Dedering earned first places in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle for Cedarburg, which was first with 309 points.
Top-ranked Whitefish Bay was second (231 points) and Edgewood, which won the past two Division 2 state titles, finished third (191). Third-ranked Sauk Prairie/Wisconsin Heights finished fourth (165) and Monona Grove placed fifth (157).
Second-seeded Stitgen finished ahead of Cedarburg freshman Noah Turner, the top seed who wound up as diving runner-up with 472.45 points.
Stitgen was second after the preliminary round. He took the lead after the semifinals with 342.85 points — Turner was second at that point with 331.05 — and wrapped up the title with two strong final dives in the last round.
Stitgen faced a challenging road this season. After playing soccer in the fall, he struggled to find a place to dive with schools closed in Dane County due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Public Health Madison & Dane County’s strict health and gathering orders.
He said his parents reached out to pools in the Madison area, but he wasn’t able to secure any dive time. In December, he said he began traveling to Milwaukee for two-hour practices until he was able to get time at the Middleton pool while working locally with coach Cynthia Zocher.
“It was a lot of work,” Stitgen said.
Senke edged Monona Grove junior Cameron Tejeda in two individual events. Senke finished first in the butterfly in 50.19 seconds, ahead of runner-up Tejeda (:51.39) and Laux (:51.88).
Later, Senke claimed the 100 backstroke in :49.28, ahead of second-place Tejeda (:50.62).
“For all the guys around the state, they’ve just been looking for something like this, something to get excited for, especially after this year (with the COVID-19 pandemic),” Senke said. “A meet like this really brought everything together. It brought a sense of normalcy back. I’m just really grateful for that.”
Laux won the 100 breaststroke in a personal-best :57.31. Sam King, a sophomore from Sauk Prairie/Wisconsin Heights, was second (:57.48).
“I had a feeling it was going to be a pretty fast race,” Laux said. “I had a small feeling it was going to be Sam and I, but I didn’t know how well some of the other guys tapered. I knew it was going to be a fast one. I just had to give it everything.”
Edgewood (with Senke, juniors Silas Leuthner and Davis Petersen and freshman Jaxon VandenBrook) was second behind Cedarburg in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays. Petersen earned third in the 500 freestyle.
Monona Grove picked up third in the 200 medley relay and fourth in the 400 freestyle relay.
Matthew Loy, a junior from Sauk Prairie/Wisconsin Heights, was fourth in the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle.
DeForest senior Ferris Wolf placed fifth in the 50 freestyle, while Monona Grove junior Caleb Jondle was fifth in the 500 freestyle.
Glendale Nicolet freshman Jack Sullivan won the 200 freestyle (1:40.94).
Whitefish Bay won the 200 freestyle relay (1:27.48). Sauk Prairie/Wisconsin Heights was fourth.