The process of nudging the Homestead boys swim team back into strong area relevance took several steps forward this past season under veteran coach Mark Gwidt.
And the cause just got advanced substantially after the Feb. 13 WIAA D1 sectional the Highlanders hosted as they advanced a sound four individuals and two relay teams to the state test to be held at the UW-Madison Natatorium Feb. 20.
'We've been working our way through a bit of a rebuilding process,' said Gwidt, 'but our younger kids have been developing. ...I also think the entire team has developed well throughout the season, especially at the (North Shore) conference and sectional meets, which is neat, because we don't have a lot of year-around swimmers.
'We have guys who come in in November and leave in February.'
Still, Gwidt is highly encouraged by what he sees as freshman Zach Teplin will advance in the 200-yard freestyle and the 100 butterfly and Chris Eckhardt in the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke and both will be part of the state qualifying 200 200 medley relay and 200 free relay teams.
The D1 state test will get underway at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20. Gwidt still thinks his swimmers have more in the tank and can drop a little more time.
'I think we have the opportunity to score some points,' he said. 'This was a good step for us.'
The qualifying efforts came out of the Highlanders fifth place effort (247.5 points) effort in the 11-school sectional that was won by Arrowhead (389).
Teplin earned his berths with third place finishes in the 200 free (1:47.73) and the 100 butterfly (54.08) while Eckhardt was fifth in the 200 IM (2:01.68) and fourth in the 100 backstroke (55.24).
The all underclassmen medley relay team of Eckhardt, Phillip Zuccaro, Teplin and James Guskov was third in a season best of 1:42.66 while the 200 free team of Eckhardt, Guskov, Teplin and senior Patrick Norman was also third in a two-second drop of 1:31.02.
Gwidt was very happy for Norman, who was a junior varsity swimmer last season, but who is now capable of a 22.2-second 50 free.
Other good efforts for the Highlanders included the following: 50 free—Norman, sixth (23.26); Guskov, seventh (23.69); and Gonzalo Morales, 10th (23.89). 100 butterfly—Tyler Gao, 10th (58.78). 100 free—Guskov, fifth (51.8), Norman, fifth (51.8); Morales, 10th (54.41). 100 breaststroke—Zuccaro, ninth (1:06.14). 400 free relay—Morales, Joey Pietrowiak, Gao and Norman, fifth (3:34.56).
Gwidt felt positive about the meet and the entire season. He liked his team a great deal.
'That camaraderie was something else,' he said. 'No one had more fun than our team.'