"Amazing" was Michael Ruen's one-word description of his senior season.

Andrew Goll choose "Godly."

It is no exaggeration to say this Brainerd Warriors swimming and diving team is the best in program history.

The facts speak for themselves: An 8-0 Central Lakes Conference and regular-season dual meet record. A 220-point victory in the conference championship meet, Brainerd's second straight in the regular season final, highlighted by 10 all-conference athletes.

Brainerd won the Section 8-2A True Team meet for the fifth-straight year and secured a school-record fourth-place finish at the True Team state meet.

Then the Warriors ripped through the Section 8-2A final, winning by 238.5 points and advanced eight athletes in 10 of the 12 Minnesota State High School League events.

Saturday all the trips to the YMCA and Brainerd High School pools paid off when the Warriors secured 127 team points and a seventh-place finish at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

Both are program highs, according to Warriors coach John Zemke, who chose, "Enjoyable," as his word.

"From a coaching standpoint this was an enjoyable season because these kids were willing to work hard," he said. "I think this group has helped show to the metro schools that Brainerd can produce some pretty good swimmers."

Brainerd was one of just three schools to have a relay team in the championship finals. The other two were Edina and Minnetonka, which finished 1-2 in team points. Brained competed in six championship finals and three consolation finals, helping break Brainerd's old record of 112 team points at state in 2000.

"That's awesome for me personally because I wasn't even on the team last year," said the Warriors' Alek Rudstrom. "I worked hard this summer and got a lot faster and then to be on the best team we've ever had is an awesome feeling.

"Our team in 2000 was amazing, the year Alexandria won state and we almost beat them at the section meet. To know we are faster than that (Brainerd) team is an awesome feeling."

One word wasn't good enough for Rudstrom, who described the year as: "The best season I'll probably have in my entire life."

It was made special by a unique group of individuals, who were represented by five of their classmates.

Goll and teammate Jared Anderson swam in four events Saturday. Both are seniors. Ruen swam the butterfly and 200 medley relay. Michael Brekken was also on that relay and he's a senior. Jake Larson swam on two relays. He's a senior.

There were 18 seniors on this year's Warriors team. That number wasn't lost on Rudstrom, a junior, and along with sophomore diver Britton Murrey and junior Evan Reese, the only Warrior underclassmen to compete at state.

"They've been the core of this team and next year when they're gone it's going to be so hard," Rudstrom said. "We'll come back and swim better, but it's been awesome with all these seniors. Unfortunately, having them leave all at once is disappointing."

Gone, but they certainly won't be forgotten. The names of many will be plastered on the wall of records for years as this team, this group of seniors, certainly made Brainerd swimming and diving an elite program, not like basketball's Hopkins or wrestling's Apple Valley, but a program worth watching in the future.

"I think we've left our mark on it," Ruen said. " A lot of us were freshmen swimming at the varsity level. Now we're leaving almost a legacy, kind of, I would say. A lot of younger swimmers will be able to look up to us and say, 'I want to be like them."'

Zemke said as many as six Warrior seniors could swim next year in college. Anderson is headed to the University of Minnesota. Goll will swim at North Dakota State University, both Division I programs.

But, in talking with these athletes, you get the feeling it wasn't about records. It wasn't about next year. It was about this season. A culmination of a lot of chlorine swallowed and probably a few belly flops.

"To come down here to the state meet is one of the highlights," said Ruen. "We've been training since most of us were 8-years-old for this one meet and for most of us it was our last meet. It was a lot of fun and it was great to be with a lot of great guys and a great group of teammates."

While Goll couldn't find words to describe being a part of the best swim team in program history, it wasn't hard to describe this senior group.

"It really is just a group of guys, a bunch of friends, who started at the YMCA and came through all the way," said Goll.

And come through they did. Expectations were high and they fulfilled them. They made a lot of parents proud and a few coaches, too.

jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com or at 855-5856.

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