Top competition drives city swimmers

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Alex Kofler, left, of Century, and Michael Steyle and John Becker, of John Marshall hope to build on last year's success as Rochester's premier high school swimmers. They, along with Sam Hayward of Century, were All-State last season.

When it comes to club swimming in Rochester, many of the city's top swimmers are teammates for much of the year. But those teammates become rivals once the high school season begins.

That will be the case for the boys swimmers and divers at Century, John Marshall and Mayo as they all open the season this week.

"We're good friends and there's friendly competition there," Century's Sam Hayward said.

Four returning swimmers — two each from Century and JM — earned All-State honors a year ago. Century placed 17th in the Class AA state meet last season and returns several other strong swimmers. JM placed 22nd at the state meet.

"It is pretty rare for a city to have so many top swimmers," Century coach Linda Freeman said. "Imagine if we had just one high school swim team?"


Century has a strong junior core led by Hayward, Alex Kofler and Will Cima. Hayward was All-State in the 500 freestyle as he placed fourth at state. He was also 15th in the 200 freestyle.

"I'd like to get back to state in both again and place in the top eight, maybe the top three in the 500," Hayward said. "And maybe get the relays to state."

Kofler was All-State in the 100 breaststroke as he placed sixth in the state meet. He was also 10th in the 50 freestyle.

"My goal each year is just to go out and do better than the year before," Kofler said. He was the Section 1AA champion in both his individual events last season. While he enjoys the breaststroke, Kofler likes the all-out nature of the 50 freestyle.

"It's anyone's game," he said. "One little wrong turn and you're done. I love the intensity of it."

Michael Streyle and John Becker had top-eight state finishes for JM last season to garner All-State honors.

Becker, a sophomore, was fifth in the 200 individual medley and also 12th in the breaststroke.

"He did extremely well last year," JM coach Paul Bachman said.


Becker and Kofler were both breaststroke state qualifiers last season and have competed with and against each other a number of times.

"John Paul's a great swimmer and good friend of mine," Kofler said. "I know he's been working hard all year and it's fun to race against him."

Streyle earned All-State honors as a junior by placing eighth in the 100 backstroke.

"He's hoping to build on it and go faster this year," Bachman said.

Long win streak

Century also enters the season with a stellar team accomplishment. The Panthers have won 102 straight dual meets dating back to 2004. They have won the last 11 Big Nine Conference titles and the last eight Section 1AA championships.

"There's pressure about it obviously, but we try not to think about it too much," Hayward said of the dual-meet streak. "Every year we just start 0-0, that's our mindset."

"We just kind of don't talk about it," Kofler said. "As long as we put in the hard work, the wins will come. On game days it's in the back of your mind."


Century hopes it can continue the streak again, and they have a strong core of swimmers. Aside from Hayward and Kofler, Cima, senior Jason Tri and sophomore Jack Ommen are also returning state qualifiers.

Cima was part of two state relay teams and won the section title in the 100 butterfly before going on to place 14th at state. Tri is coming off an injury-plagued junior year, but he still placed 12th in the 500 freestyle and was part of two state relays, as was Ommen.

"Jason Tri and I really push each other," Hayward said.

"We all push each other," Kofler said. "Sam Hayward always pushes me and Jason Tri and Jack, too."

Freeman says the competition among the elite swimmers at all the schools helps all the individuals become better.

"These guys all swim together on the city club, Rochester Orcas, and are good friends in addition to superior competitors," Freeman said. "They make each other better all the time."

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