Rebel swimmers working for a successful finish

Champlin Park senior Todd Croastan plows through the butterfly during the Blaine Invitational Dec. 15 at Northdale Middle School in Coon Rapids. (Photo by Nick Clark – Sun Newspapers)

The Champlin Park boys swimming and diving team rolled into the pool at Northdale Middle School with all of 15 minutes to spare.

One of 14 teams scheduled to compete in the 2012 Blaine Bengal Invite, the Rebels were by far the last to arrive.

But they had good reason.

“We were at our pool, where we ran through a full practice,” said head coach Joe Thiel. “The guys were sprinting and doing some distance sets. They pumped up the yards, and we talked how this is training right now. Our real stuff will come in January, and then by sections, we’ll be getting after it. Everything we are doing now is preparing us for sections, and an opportunity to go on to state.”

Therefore, instead of joining the endless lines of swimmers waiting their turn to get into a lane, or on the blocks at Northdale to prep for the meet, Champlin Park practiced in the confines of Jackson Middle School.

As Thiel noted, the reasoning had to do with building towards March, which the Rebels have made a point to admit is far more important than anything they do in December.

Of course, for that to matter, a team needs a few horses, and Champlin Park certainly has a stable to work with.

Senior captain Todd Croastan just missed a state qualifying berth a year ago, and Thiel said he is intent making sure that doesn’t happen again.

Fellow senior captain Colin Hortman was a state meet entrant as a sophomore, but missed last year after dealing with injuries. Again, Thiel said that won’t likely be the case as Hortman chases down another state qualifying spot later this season.

Other possible state meet entrants include ninth-grader Christian Magalis in the freestyle events. Fellow ninth-grader John Hartland has been solid, and junior Ben McBroom is already just a second off the qualifying time in the 50-yard freestyle with an entire season to work on getting his time down.

In other words, there is a real chance the Rebels representation at the state meet later this year is a legitimate one.

“There is some potential for us to get a few guys down to the state tournament,” Thiel said. “We have some guys with a lot of ability, and they’ve already shown they are willing to put in the work to get there.”

As for the team, Thiel admitted Champlin Park is likely a middle-of-the-pack player in the Northwest Suburban Conference, which his no slight.

Maple Grove and Anoka are the favorites. Osseo, Andover and Elk River are next in line. Champlin Park is on the cusp of the conversation.

“We are trying to break into that pecking order,” said Thiel. “That is where we want to be.”

The Rebels have the right balance in age to be there. All four-grade levels were represented in the 13 varsity swimmers that Champlin Park had on the roster at the Blaine Invite, including an even four guys each from the senior, junior and ninth-grade classes.

The leadership has undoubtedly come from up top, but the mix is one the coaching staff said is perfect.

“We have balance through all the grade levels, from seniors down through the freshmen, we have three or four contributing members to our varsity in each grade,” said Thiel. “That gives it a real nice feel. We have strong leadership, whether they are captains or just seniors, and they are setting a positive tone for our team, and the rest of the guys are following.”