Top high school recruit Paul DeLakis competing in the men’s 200 meter breaststroke.
When the best swimmers in the state dive into the pool at the UW Natatorium for the 2017 WIAA State Swimming and Diving Championships on Feb. 17-18, the Madison area will be well represented.
Madison Memorial is chasing its seventh consecutive state title after dominating the Big Eight Conference in dual meets for the past 20 years. But if the Spartans’ third-place performances in conference and sectional meets earlier this month are any indication, they will need to swim out of their minds to beat Madison West and Middleton. A shakeup atop the Big Eight is imminent.
The Regents have swimmers in all but one state event and could very well be crowned the new kings of Wisconsin high school swimming, but they will need to put together the meet of their lives to chase down Waukesha South-Catholic Memorial, which has been perched atop the Division 1 Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association rankings every week for the entire second half of the season. Hartland Arrowhead and Eau Claire Memorial-North also will be in the mix for a team title.
Eau Claire’s team is especially noteworthy, as it’s led by senior Paul DeLakis, who’s built like Michael Phelps and, according to CollegeSwimming.com, is the state’s top high school recruit and the sixth best in the country.
In Division 2, Monona Grove High School will be tough to beat, despite a powerful Madison Edgewood team that won’t be far behind. The Silver Eagles haven’t surrendered the top WISCA spot all season, and they will have swimmers in all but one of the 11 events at state. The Wisconsin State Journal did the math: Monona Grove accounts for almost 11 percent of the entire Division 2 field and 12.5 percent of the spots in the eight individual events.
Madison Memorial, Middleton and Monona Grove also each will have one diver participating in the state meet.
The Nat is an old building with steep bleacher seating and cramped spectator restrooms, but there’s also something magical about it. I’ve been there countless times (as a swim parent but never a swimmer), and there’s nothing quite like hearing the roar when a relay race is determined by hundredths of a second, or witnessing a new meet record, or noticing a grown man cry because his son swam faster than ever before. Those are times when the place feels a little bit like the Olympics.
If you’ve never attended a high school swim meet and want to know what all the excitement is about, here’s your chance.