The team also won two individual state championships courtesy of senior Luke Logue. “It was a very special moment for so many reasons – my first state team title, and first time scoring 40 points (winning both individual events),” Logue said.
“But what is probably going to stick with me the most was the team effort and the special experience of winning the team title that I was able to help give to my younger teammates and fellow seniors. I think we will all remember that night for the rest of our lives,” he said.
The Eagles were also state champions in all three relay events, an extremely rare feat.
“One team winning all three relays at the state meet is a significant accomplishment,” said Kelly Boston, the team’s head coach. “Edina did it last year, but outside of that, I have never seen it done in my coaching career.”
In addition to Boston, the Eagles are led by diving coach Kelly Derouin and assistant coach Anna Gard.
“It was fun winning a boys state title with an all-female coaching staff,” Boston said. “The meet director at the state meet says that he is not sure of any boys sport in Minnesota that has ever had an all female staff and won the state title.”
Eden Prairie scored 263.5 points total to bring home the win. Edina was second with 219, Prior Lake third with 194, Minnetonka fourth with 161, and Lakeville South fifth with 152.
The Eagles also became the first EPHS team this year to win a state title.
Russ Reetz, an associate principal and the activities director at EPHS, said, “I was really excited for the athletes and coaches. They set a goal before the season to win a state championship. Coach Boston had them ready to swim their best when it mattered most.”
Reetz also noted the team’s supportive character. “This group of boys really cares for and swims for each other,” he said.
“I admire the hard work and championship approach our athletes and coaches took this season. No program works harder or is more disciplined in their approach than boys swim and dive.”
Eagles had ‘the drive and desire’ to win
The Eagles had high hopes heading into the Class AA State Tournament on March 2-4 at the University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center. However, the team was slightly behind rival Edina after prelims.
“Coming out of sections, it seemed that we had a strong lead over the rest of the state for the team title,” Boston said. “After Friday prelims, while we swam and dove well, it looked as if Edina had found another gear and had a better shot at the team title.
“During our wake-up swim on Saturday morning, we talked about what it would take to win the team title. We also talked about the fact that nothing has come easy for this team. We had always found a way to come together and achieve all of their big team goals all season,” Boston said.
Howard added, “Going into prelims we knew exactly what we were gunning for: a lane in finals. Kelly likes to say, ‘State is won at prelims,’ and I couldn’t agree more. We all busted our butts and put up some great times to secure spots at finals. At finals, we knew we had a chance to win — we certainly had the drive and desire for it.”
Finals kicked off at 6 p.m. Saturday with the medley relay. “We knew we had to fight and it wasn’t going to be easy,” said team co-captain Matthew Lillejord, who swam the freestyle leg in that event.
Lillejord credited his team’s support as the extra factor that helped him succeed.
“Swimming competitively for two weeks straight is absolutely gruesome,” Lillejord said. “But one thing that keeps you going, and makes you forget physically, is the energy you get knowing that you need to do this for your team. I don’t think I could have done that just for myself.”
After crushing the opener, the Eagles went from strength to strength.
“The tide turned from the first event,” Boston said. “The Eagles took control of what they had control of and swam lights-out fast. After winning the second relay it was pretty clear that barring any disqualifications, we had the team title within our reach.”
In the end, the team sealed the championship with a stunning first-place finish in the final event, the 400 free relay.
State meet highlights
Boston called out several notable performances, some qualifying for All-American status. All top eight finishers also become All-State athletes.
Medley relay: First place and Automatic All-American, with the team of Luke Logue, Brian Shi, Drew Ploof, and Matthew Lillejord.
200 free: Charlie Folks moved from 11th to ninth place with a personal best time. Drew Ploof placed fourth with a personal best time.
200 IM: Luke Logue – First place, State Champion, and Automatic All-American.
50 free: Eric Howard – moved from seventh to fourth place.
Diving: Alex Oestreich – Fifth place.
100 fly: Drew Ploof – Second place; personal best time and Automatic All-American.
100 free: Matthew Lillejord moved from 16th to 13th place.
500 free: Charlie Folks – moved from sixth to fourth place. Mark Derouin – seventh place.
200 freestyle relay: First place and Automatic All-American, with the team of Eric Howard, Brian Shi, Matthew Lillejord, and Drew Ploof.
100 back: Luke Logue – First place, State Champion, and Automatic All-American. Logue also set a new EPHS record with his time of 47.74. Erik Peterson – 14th place.
400 freestyle relay: First place and All-American Consideration, with the team of Eric Howard, Matthew Lillejord, Charlie Folks, and Luke Logue.
A long-awaited victory achieved with hard work
Winning the state title was something this team had been striving for their entire high school swim careers.
Eden Prairie last held the state championship title back in 2016. Last year, the Eagles placed second to longtime rival Edina, which has won the title the past four years running.
“We’ve come just short of Edina the past three years — ever so slightly inching closer and closer,” said co-captain Eric Howard. “This year, as a team, we have put an immense amount of effort into our practices … Couldn’t be prouder of the way the guys performed this weekend.”
Drew Ploof, a sophomore, added, “We went into the season with a goal of winning it, and accomplished it right at the end when we needed to. All the work that we put in led up to this.”
That hard work also led to perfection when it mattered in a field of tough competitors and tight races. “We won the 200 free relay by .02 and the 400 free relay by .03, so all those relay starts that we practiced and practiced really paid off in those moments,” Ploof said.
Logue called out the 200 free relay as the highlight of the meet.
“I wasn’t a part of it, but watching every single member of our relay go a lifetime best split to go from fifth seed to state champions was electric,” Logue said. “The story behind it is even more insane when you realize three of the four guys hadn’t swum year round.”
Logue also commended junior Brian Shi, who “went out with a back injury two weeks before state, which was believed then to be season ending,” Logue said. “A few days later it was reviewed and he was able to return with limitations. Just a week later he became a two-time state champion in the 4 x 50  medley relay and 4 x 50  freestyle relay.”
In diving, Derouin praised senior Alex Oestreich’s performance amid a high-quality field competing with a high degree of difficulty.
“Being able to be in the top eight out of 32 competitors was an accomplishment in and of itself,” she said. “I was extremely proud of how Alex handled the challenging two nights of competition. He has worked so hard all season and it paid off with a fifth place finish.”
‘A win for the whole team’
Howard said the team couldn’t have won the state title without the support of all of their teammates. “This year specifically, we truly grew closer than I ever have before over my four years swimming,” he said.
“This win does not just apply to those who scored at state,” he added. “Instead, this is a win for the whole team. As a whole, we wouldn’t be state champions without the energy that each individual brought to every practice.”
Logue said he valued seeing his team’s hard work at practice translate into stellar results.
“Getting to watch their hard work turn into personal bests, state qualifying times, and points at state is what I find to be the most enjoyable part of being on Eden Prairie swim and dive,” he said.
Lillejord said he was grateful for the team’s alternates who did not end up swimming at state but helped the team qualify for relays, cheered, and were ready in case they were needed to swim.
The athletes also gave shout-outs to coaches Boston, Derouin, and Gard.
“To put an exclamation point behind it, Kelly is the best coach that swimming has seen in Minnesota and I think absolutely, the world,” Lillejord said. “I give total props to her, [Gard], and [Derouin]. Our coaches have been absolutely phenomenal.”
Howard seconded that sentiment.
“Kelly Boston has, for the past 12 years, been an incredible asset to our team,” he said. “Not only does she help create a positive team atmosphere, but she is incredible at crafting practices, fine-tuning techniques, and putting together meet lineups. I couldn’t imagine the team without her.”
He called Gard, who joined the team this season, “a huge part of making this the best year of my high school career. She was always there to support the fun side of swim and dive.”
Finally, Howard said, “Kelly Derouin is not just our dive coach, but a huge supporter of every member of the team. She believes in each and every one of us and always gave the team words of encouragement before a big meet/race.
“She even has a bracelet that says ‘I believe’ in the shape of a circle that I pressed as a button to give me good luck before my races,” Howard said. “Seemed to work! I am incredibly appreciative of the coaching staff. … It truly was my favorite season of my career.”
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