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Prep boys swimming: Healthy Wodny eyes better state finish

Duluth swimmer seeded high in Class AA 200 and 500 freestyles.

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Duluth swimmers sophomore Grant Wodny and senior Joe Rudd will compete Friday at the Class AA state meet in Minneapolis. (2021 File / News Tribune)
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In the days before a worldwide sickness put a halt to all athletic activities, Grant Wodny came down with flu-like symptoms in the midst of the 2020 high school boys swimming and diving state meet.

That illness prevented Wodny, then a ninth-grader, from realizing his full potential.

Now Wodny, a homeschooled sophomore on the Duluth swim team, hopes that dealing with all the changes stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic won’t harm his chances at this year’s state meet.

Included among the changes were the prohibition of invitationals and the absence of any meets against Twin Cities-area competition.

“We haven’t had the head-to-head matchups that we normally would have had, both against teams in our section and other metro teams that we normally would swim against,” Duluth coach Cliff Knettel said. “We’ve had to rely on some (results from) other meets around the state … to see where we stack up on relays and some of our individuals.”

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Wodny cruised to victories in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles at last week’s Section 7AA meet and is seeded fourth in the 200 and sixth in the 500 at this week’s Class AA state meet.

Could a healthy Wodny contend this go-round?

“I wasn’t super happy with my times last weekend, but hopefully having another week of taper will help,” Wodny said Wednesday. “As long as I don’t get sick for state like I did last year, I should do well.”

Knettel is expecting a better outcome.

“That second day he was not feeling well at all,” Knettel said. “Hopefully this year he remains healthy throughout and he can make a splash at state.”

This year’s meet at the Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center in Minneapolis has several alterations. The 1-meter diving competition in both classes was held Thursday, with Class AA swimming finals scheduled for Friday and Class A on Saturday.

Unlike past years, no preliminaries will be held. The finals are broken up into several heats and the top times will prevail rather than the best swimmers going head-to-head.

Knettel was awaiting a coaches’ meeting Wednesday night to learn of other procedural changes. With no time-consuming award ceremonies, the coach was concerned there wouldn’t be enough rest time between events.

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“They have divided (the finals) into heats and some heats only have three people in them. It’s a little bit strange,” he said. “Who knows how they will pace these events to make sure they can recover in time.”

Duluth senior Joe Rudd will have little time to go from the 100 breaststroke — where he is seeded fifth — to the meet-ending 400 freestyle relay. Likewise, Wodny jumps right from the grueling 500 to the 200 freestyle relay.

Still, Knettel believes both have the chance to excel.

“I’m excited for both of them because they have better competition in front of them, so they have the opportunity to push themselves further and make the most of it at the state meet,” he said.

  • In Class A, Hibbing senior William Stenson has the top seed time in the 100 butterfly. Grand Rapids senior Austin Morrissey is a couple seconds behind.

Rock Ridge, the combined Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert programs, is seeded third in the 400 freestyle relay. Senior Cameron Johnson will swim on that relay and has posted good seed times in the 200 and 500 freestyles.

Related Topics: SWIMMING AND DIVING
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