Capturing the Lake Conference title for boys swim and dive is no simple feat. But after an undefeated conference season, Eden Prairie High School’s team did just that with their win against St. Michael-Albertville High School (STMA) on Thursday night.
Not only is winning this title a big deal amid a challenging field – it’s also the first time the team has been Lake Conference champions since 2016.
The Eagles traveled to STMA on Feb. 9 for the final meet of the regular season, besting the Knights 102.5 to 75.5.
Although the Eagles were the stronger of the two teams this year and expected to win this final meet, senior captain Charlie Folks said, “We wanted to remind the guys that we weren’t conference champions yet until we won the meet. We had to do our best.”
Senior captain Ben Ploof said the efforts of the entire team contributed to winning the title.
“What’s special about the conference championship is that it’s everyone working towards it,” he said. “It’s the JV guys, it’s the faster guys, and it’s everyone in between. That’s why I like it — because everybody plays a part in it.”
The team has been working hard this season with tough practices and tough competition. Head coach Kelly Boston said, “The last month has been a fun one for the Eagles. We have learned how to balance hard work with weekly duals.
“We had our sights set on the Lake Conference title, but we knew we had to take it one week at a time. After we beat Wayzata and Edina, we knew the test was with Minnetonka who had just won the True Team State title. Beating them last week was a thrilling victory for the boys.”
Boston spoke highly of the Lake Conference community. “In the Lake Conference, all of the coaches and athletes are friends and we all have a tremendous amount of respect for each other,” she said. “We are excited to come out on top this time as it’s not an easy title to achieve.”
Championship season is underway
With the regular season now behind them, some of the Eagles will compete at JV Finals on Feb. 18, and some at sections at their home pool on Feb. 22-24. Each team in the section takes turns hosting, and this will be EP’s second year of a three-year turn.
“We’re definitely super hyped for sections,” Folks said. “It’s going to be a great time. We’ve all been working really hard the past couple of weeks.
“We’re excited to take advantage of this opportunity we have this year,” he said. “We haven’t really had a chance like this in a long time. It’s really exciting. It’s like all the stars have just fallen in place this season, and this all just worked out in the best way possible for us.”
Folks praised the team’s dedication and commitment. “I’m really proud of our guys. Everybody has given it their all,” he said. “We may not have been in the strongest position at the beginning of the season, but everyone’s worked their tail off.
“We’ve had the chance to be conference champions tonight, and we’re in a really strong place going into championship season.”
The goal at sections will be to get the team to the state meet, which will be March 2-4 at the University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center.
Folks said that Boston, assistant coach Anna Gard and dive coach Kelly Derouin were the guiding force behind the team’s success.
“Our coaches have done everything they can to help get us to this point, so I’m really thankful to them,” he said. “They just know what they’re doing, and they’ve gotten us where we are today. They’re always inspiring, they always lift us up, and they know exactly what we need.”
Celebrating seniors and a positive team culture
Folks said he appreciates the collaborative nature of the team and the support the boys all show each other in practice and at meets.
“It’s a lot of fun when everyone gets to win together,” he said. “That’s been something I’ve been trying to make sure everybody knows this season, that every athlete on our team is important. Everybody has a role to play — not just the guys in varsity and not just the guys winning the events.”
Ploof said, “I’ve been very blessed to be on this team for four years. It’s been a great experience. I love the team culture — it’s such a positive atmosphere.
“I would say a huge thank you to this team,” he added. “Both in the water and out of the water, they’ve been a great group of guys. It’s been fun to hang out at pasta dinners, at breakfasts, and other things, too.”
Boston praised the team’s seniors for their leadership and contribution to the team’s success.
“A big shout out to our senior class who has led us through this successful dual meet season,” she said. “I am so happy they are leaving Lake Conference champions. They will be a hard class to replace.”
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