Madison Memorial’s six-year reign as WIAA Division 1 boys state swimming and diving champion ended Saturday.

But the Spartans didn’t relinquish the crown without a fight at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium.

Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial delivered as the favorite, totaling 246 points and winning the title for the first time since 2010. That was the most recent occasion any team other than Madison Memorial earned the top trophy.

Madison Memorial, led by 100-yard butterfly champion Alex Wowk, entered as the fifth-seeded team. But the Spartans paid no attention to that prediction while compiling 216 points, good for second place.

“It was different being a six-time champion and coming in as a huge underdog,” Madison Memorial coach Paul Eckerle said. “I just believed in them.”

Despite finishing third at the Big Eight Conference and sectional meets, Eckerle thought a second-place finish for the Spartans behind Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial was possible.

“We talked early in the week and our goal was 220 points,” Eckerle said. “When I told them I thought 220 was possible, they had a look of shock on their faces, like, ‘How do you figure that?’ I’ve watched this team all year and, yes, we were not great the last two weeks, but I knew we had another level.

“They were so good today. Every single swim was the best time and most by a ton. … They were on fire.”

Wowk, a junior, surprised even himself in winning the 100 butterfly in 49.50 seconds, which Eckerle said was a school record.

“It was awesome,” said Wowk, who was in Lane 1. “I was seeded seventh; I just went for it. I don’t know what happened. I’m so happy. I didn’t believe it at first. There is no way that could happen.”

Madison West junior Lain Weaver was second in :49.75. Ayden Frey, a junior from the Sauk Prairie co-op, was fourth in :50.79.

“Paul is such a good coach,” Wowk said. “He nailed our whole team’s taper perfectly. Everybody is swimming so well. That is just part of Paul’s genius, I guess.”

Spartans senior Drake Horton finished second to Wauwatosa West/East senior Danny Larson in the 200 freestyle and the 100 freestyle.

Larson, swimming in the third heat, won the 200 freestyle in 1:38.95, while Horton won the second heat in 1:40.78.

“I just wanted to try my hardest and set a standard for the guys in the next heat,” Horton said.

Horton said the Spartans’ work ethic paid off.

“I think we work really hard,” Horton said. “We had a little down meet at sectionals. We always seem to swim really well at the ‘Nat’ and state. I’m really proud of my team. (Eckerle) made us believe in it. That’s why I think he is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had and one of the best coaches in Wisconsin.”

Sauk Prairie earned the area’s other first place, winning the first swimming event — the 200 medley relay. The team of sophomore Desmon Sachtjen, senior Owen Doerre, Frey and junior Ben Chao came out of Lane 1 and earned first in 1:34.04.

“I told them, ‘Every lane is fast. You can win,’ ” Sauk Prairie coach Todd Wuerger said.

Madison West was second in 1:34.98, Madison Memorial finished third (1:35.46) and Middleton placed fourth (1:35.57).

“We made a switch from the sectional relay (inserting Frey),” Wuerger said. “Our goal was to get all three relays here and we did that. Being in Lane 1 worked to our advantage today. Nobody was expecting anything from Sauk Prairie, but we talked about that. They could do something special. I couldn’t be prouder of those four.

“They had been practicing relay exchanges and they totally nailed it. That was so amazing.”

Ohio State recruit Paul DeLakis set two state-meet records in leading Eau Claire Memorial/North to third place, with 189 points. Brookfield Central/East was fourth with 176 and Madison West finished fifth with 174.

DeLakis broke his own record in the 200 individual medley, finishing in 1:46.18 and winning the event for the third time. He later shattered the 2013 record set by his brother, Alex DeLakis, in winning the 100 breaststroke in :54.08 — his fourth win in that event. Madison West sophomore Henry Miller finished third in :57.69.

Paul DeLakis also anchored his team’s victorious 200 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay. Sauk Prairie was fourth in the 200 freestyle relay, while Madison West took third in the 400 freestyle relay.

Middleton junior Michael Draves said he was happy about his performance after he finished fourth in the 200 freestyle with a personal-best 1:40.87 and was second in the 500 freestyle, behind John Acevedo of Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial. Waunakee senior Colin Duffy was fourth in the 500 freestyle.

Hudson sophomore Shane Blinkman set a Division 1 record in winning the 100 backstroke in :48.84. Madison West sophomore Wes Jekel was second in :50.26 and Wowk took third in :50.47.

Brookfield Central/East junior Ryan Linnihan won the 50 freestyle in :20.99. Weaver, swimming in the third of four heats, finished second in :21.10.

Kenosha Tremper’s Brandon Spencer was the diving winner.


Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.