The most thrilling moment of an exciting day for the Grafton boys swimming and diving team came right at the end.
The Black Hawks trailed Ashwaubenon by 5 points heading into the final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, and needed a victory to capture the team championship of a WIAA Division 2 sectional meet on Feb. 11.
The 400 unit of senior Jake Herlache, senior Charley Hanney, sophomore Nick Starr and senior Sean O'Connor indeed won the race with 3 minutes, 13.22 seconds to beat Ashwaubenon's 3:15.2.
That triumph gave Grafton 379 points, one more than Ashwaubenon's 378, and allowed the Hawks to add a sectional title to their North Shore Conference Meet crown of the previous week.
"It was about as exciting as it can get when you are down going into the final event and have to come in first," coach Mark Minz said. "There were many good efforts that contributed to the win, but the team championship came down to who won the final relay. The whole team did a great job, and we won by 1 point."
Minz should not have been surprised by his team's 400 triumph because a good deal went right for the Hawks all day.
Grafton won four events, and those entries, plus 12 others, advanced to the Division 2 State Meet at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium. The Hawks advanced someone in every event except for the 50 freestyle.
"We qualified both our divers and seven other team members in 11 individual swims," Minz said. "All three of our relays qualified, and that will definitely be a big help in the final team standings (at state). We would love to move up in the final standings and earn our best overall finish at state. Our best has been fourth place as a team. We will be concentrating on having fast swims and let the team score take care of itself."
Other sectional champions were O'Connor in the 200 freestyle with 1:45.83 and the 100 butterfly at 51.41 seconds and Starr in the 500 freestyle with 4:55.66.
Taking second in the sectional were Herlache in the 200 freestyle (1:47.39) and 100 freestyle (47.81 seconds); Starr in the 200 individual medley (2:00.82); the 200 medley relay of Starr, senior Jack Senczyszyn, O'Connor and senior Adam Schacht (1:38.94); and the 200 freestyle relay of senior Ja'Quese Teat, Schacht, Senczyszyn and Herlache (1:29.56).
Coming in fourth and qualifying for state were senior diver Harry Niswonger (337.55 points), Schacht in the 100 freestyle (50.58) and Senczyszyn in the 100 breaststroke (1:02.87), and finishing fifth and qualifying were Hanney in the 200 IM (2:06.62) and the 100 backstroke (57.53) and sophomore Gaven Depies in the 100 breaststroke (1:05.73).
Freshman diver Ben Niswonger took seventh (301.2 points) to round out the state qualifiers.
"We have a lot of experienced swimmers returning to the meet this year, along with a few new qualifiers, most notably Nick in the 200 IM and 500 free," Minz said.
Schacht came in fourth in the 50 freestyle (23.29) and Teat fifth (23.55), but neither qualified for Madison. Other top-10 finishers were Matthew Fischer in the 100 freestyle (seventh, 52.58), Senczyszyn in the 100 butterfly (eighth, 57.92) and Depies in the 200 IM (ninth, 2:13.69).