It's come down to the final meet of the season for Arrowhead's talented boys swim team. After a season of showing improvement from week to week, it's time to put everything on the line Saturday.
Arrowhead will take part in their biggest and most important meet of the season on Feb. 18, competing in the WIAA Division 1 state meet at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium in Madison. The Warhawks will be facing the best swimmers in the state.
AHS came up big last Saturday when it won the championship at the Homestead sectional. The Warhawks advanced 17 entries to state, qualifying in all three relay events and earning 14 berths in individual races.
"This is what we've been working for all season," said Arrowhead coach Kevin Ewald about his team's challenge of swimming at the state meet. "Feb. 18 has been on our calendar all season, and now we get the chance to see where we fit in. We're still unshaved yet, and we have a lot of areas that we can move up in. We're looking forward to Saturday."
So, can the Warhawks turn in their best performance of the season and emerge as state champion late Saturday afternoon?
"The way I see it is that Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial is clearly the team to beat," Ewald said. "They have a lot of very talented swimmers. I think we fit in next after South/CMH, and then the Madison schools will be right there, too. For us, we have to improve on a lot of our positions. If a big group of guys can move up from their seeds, we've got a shot. But our top goal is to just go up there and turn in our best swims of the season."
South/CMH has 12 seeds in the top eight and seven more in the top 16. At the same time, the Warhawks have eight seeds in the top eight and six more in the top 16.
Arrowhead has three No. 1 seeds, one more than the Blackshirts. Junior Lucas Farrar had a big day at the sectional, winning both the 50 and 100-yard freestyle races, earning top seeds in the process. AHS also earned the top spot in the 400 freestyle relay with the combination of senior Nicholas Woida, senior Tiger Fan, sophomore Drew Nixdorf and Farrar.
Farrar's rise to the top has been an incredible story. Last year at the sectional, he was ranked 41st in the 50 freestyle and 30th in the 100 freestyle.
"Lucas has really come a long way in a matter of a year," Ewald said. "To go from where he was last year to being the No. 1 seed in his two races is unheard of. That kind of improvement rarely happens. That shows you how much work he's put in."
Other AHS entries that have top eight seeds are the 200 medley relay of senior Tyler Wrasman, senior Devin Post, Nixdorf and Fan, Fan in the 50 freestyle, Nixdorf in the 100 butterfly, the 200 freestyle relay of Farrar, Fan, Post and Woida and Nixdorf in the 100 backstroke.
Other Warhawks seeded in the top 16 are sophomore Ethan Murphy and Wrasman in the 200 individual medley, Woida in the 500 freestyke, Murphy and Wrasman in the 100 backstroke and Post in the 100 breaststroke.
Three other entries also will compete on Saturday. Woida is entered in the 200 freestyle and Alec Lanza will compete in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke.
Arrowhead, winners of six state championships and seven second-place finishes, is hoping for its first top-two finish at state in the last five years. The Warhawks were 10th last year and fifth in 2015. They did finish third in 2014 after placing 10th in 2013. AHS was second in 2012 and last won the state crown in 2008.
"We have to go to state and hit on all eight cylinders to have a chance," Ewald said. "It's not going to be easy to catch South/CMH. But our guys have been getting better and better each week. We just have to swim our best and see what happens."