Even as the defending champion in the 100-yard backstroke, Madison West senior Wes Jekel didn’t sound particularly confident entering Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 state boys swimming and diving championship.
Jekel was coming off an illness and fever last week prior to sectionals and remarked earlier in the week how challenging he expected the competition to be at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium.
“I was nervous,” said Jekel, the fourth seed in the backstroke. “I knew it would be a close race.”
But the UW commit turned in a powerful performance in that event and throughout Saturday’s meet.
“It’s just an awesome feeling to come out on top,” he said.
Jekel, feeling much better, set a state-meet record while repeating as backstroke champion; claimed the 100 butterfly in the second-fastest time ever in Division 1 for that event; and was part of two victorious and state record-setting relays — the 200 medley relay and the meet-closing 400 freestyle relay.
“To win four times, you can’t ask for anything more,” Jekel said. “It’s just an awesome feeling. I’m so proud of this team. Everybody stepped up and did what they had to do. And we came away with another title. I’m so proud of these guys.”
Top-ranked Madison West finished with 314 points and earned the Division 1 title for the second consecutive season.
“Anything can happen at this meet,” Madison West first-year coach Amanda Ellmaker said. “I think it’s pretty cool that our whole team contributed to the score. Everyone scored points, every single race we improved time. So, we can’t really ask for a better meet.”
Third-ranked Middleton, led by 500 freestyle champion Andrew Martin and its record-setting 200 freestyle relay, had 257 points and finished as runner-up for the second consecutive year.
“I knew (the Regents) had a lot extra we didn’t see at sectionals,” Middleton coach Danny Lynam said. “They are a great team. They are fast and competitive. They don’t give up. It is fun to swim in the same water, race them and be competitive.”
Madison West now is tied for second with 15 state titles, one behind all-time leader Madison Memorial. The Regents accomplished the feat in what might have been the final boys state meet at the UW Natatorium with the new Nicholas Recreation Center at UW potentially opening in December or January, and the meet expected to move there.
The Regents overcame the Cardinals during the final three events: the 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 400 freestyle relay.
“These boys are awesome,” Ellmaker said. “They are so competitive, they are so driven and they are so realistic. They knew exactly what they had to do in this meet.”
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Jekel won the backstroke in 48.09 seconds, breaking the previous state mark of :48.84 set by Hudson’s Shane Blinkman in 2017. Blinkman, a senior, finished second (:48.48).
Muskego senior Ben Gabbey claimed the breaststroke in :56.04, finishing just ahead of Madison West junior Charlie Feller (:56.72) and Regents senior Henry Miller (:56.96).
Madison West’s team of juniors Isaac Casey and Andrew Fernandez, senior Constantin Bensch and Jekel smashed the 400 freestyle relay record, winning in 3:02.24. The Regents broke Madison Memorial’s 2013 mark of 3:04.89. Middleton was second in 3:05.33.
The Regents’ team of senior Jaden Weiss, Miller, Jekel and Feller won the opening 200 medley relay in a state-record time of 1:30.83. Madison West shattered its own record of 1:32.35, established last year. Middleton finished third in 1:33.78.
Jekel, swimming in Lane 1, was the butterfly champion in :48.14. Bensch earned third (:48.59) in a race that saw the top four finishers turn in the second through fifth fastest times in Division 1 meet history.
Martin, a Xavier University commit, finished strong and won the 500 freestyle in 4:31.12.
“With about two laps to go, I hammered it home,” Martin said. “I knew it was my last individual event and I wanted to win it for the boys. I’ve been working for it for so long. … This is a dream come true.”
Said Lynam: “He happened to have that extra motivation in the last 100. It is great to see a kid finish a race like that. It is everything you’d hope for.”
Middleton’s team of senior Archer Parkin, junior Nate Lamers, Martin and junior Forrest Peterson then won the 200 freestyle relay in record time (1:23.12), bettering Sauk Prairie/Wisconsin Heights’ 2009 mark of 1:24.32. Madison West (1:23.68) was second and Sun Prairie (1:24.76) finished fourth.
“That was incredible,” Martin said. “At the beginning of the year, I never would have expected that. All these boys, they worked so hard for it. It was so awesome to see it pay off.”
Michael Linnihan, a junior from Brookfield Central/Brookfield East, won the 200 freestyle in 1:39.00 and the 100 freestyle (:44.94). Martin was second in the 200 freestyle, while Casey was third in the 100 freestyle.
Blinkman won the 200 individual medley in 1:46.99 — ahead of Middleton junior Nathan Kim, second in 1:50.98, and third-place finisher Desmon Sachtjen (1:52.80), a Lodi senior who swims for the Sauk Prairie co-op.
Braden Rumpit, a senior from Brookfield Central/Brookfield East, won the diving championship with 486.55 points. Madison Memorial freshman Drew Bennett finished third (456.05).
Sheboygan North freshman William Hayon won the 50 freestyle in :20.76.