Just a year ago, the Lakers sent a swimmer to state for the first time in school history. Now, as the program approaches the conclusion of its third official season, there will be six Camdenton swimmers at the final show of the year.

The Camdenton boys’ swimming program is continuing to make new waves.

Just a year ago, the Lakers sent a swimmer to state for the first time in school history. Now, as the program approaches the conclusion of its third official season, there will be six Camdenton swimmers at the final show of the year.

Senior Josef Bernabe will be returning to state and he will be joined by sophomore Gavin Schulte, junior Bryce Leuenberger, junior Michael Radlund, sophomore Dane Lapine, junior Jeremy Bernabe and alternates junior Jacob Dunahee and freshman Nicholas Rosenthal. The Lakers will be competing in both individual and relay events amongst the best Class 1 swimmers Missouri on Friday and Saturday and all it took was a little teamwork and leadership.

“It is actually pretty exciting. I like to see that they are pushing themselves to do different things,” Camdenton coach Anna Leezer said. “No matter what I give them, most of the time they take it on. We have a couple of pushers and leaders out there in Joey, Gavin and Michael and they really focused the guys on going to state and kept pushing them.

“So it is not just myself, they kept pushing each other.”

Good thing, too, because after the Southwest Missouri Championships in Springfield on October 27, Schulte was the only Laker who made the cut for state with an automatic qualifying time in the 50 freestyle. However, Camdenton had a number of consideration times on the line for the Last Chance Meet the following Tuesday where a top 32 finish would guarantee a trip and the Lakers did not disappoint with their final shot as they turned in their final times.

Joining Schulte in the 50 freestyle was Josef who became a two-time state qualifier and Schulte will also be swimming in the 100 butterfly. The 200 Medley Relay team will feature both Bernabes, Leuenberger and Lapine while the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams consist of Josef, Radlund, Lapine and Schulte.

“They all came together and wound up dropping an incredible amount of time. In the 200 medley, I think we were 39th when we went into Last Chance and wound up in 27th so they rallied after that,” Leezer said. “They are a pretty tight-knit group of guys.”

Safe to say, the team may have been a little excited upon learning that they would be guaranteed another trip to the pool.

“We were super excited. We got together, had a party and were just so stoked to hear it,” Schulte said. “It is a great experience.

“Reaching state is truly exhilarating making it as a team and we’ve all worked very hard to get there.”

After being the lone Camdenton swimmer at state a season ago, Josef is certainly glad to have a few more familiar faces around.

“It has made a huge difference,” he said. “With the whole team going there, everyone is so hyped and super happy so I’m excited.”

And the concept of being a team and the bond the team shares cannot be underestimated. It may have been the single biggest factor in the team’s success.

“It is a really good feeling because I’ve been here since the team first started and it was always something that was a goal in mind, but we never really reached. Joey reached it last year, but as a whole team to be able to go is a great feeling,” Leuenberger said of making it to state.

“There are only eight of us on the team so we are able to get a lot closer with each other and I believe, perform better because of that.”

After all, the Lakers will be competing in three different relay events so something had to click.

“What is special about our team is that there are people who are friends outside of swim so it makes it easier coming into practice to work together and try to get to state,” Radlund noted. “A majority of our events are relay and they are really important because of our team bonding.”

That bond is also family as Jeremy will get to swim with his older brother Josef one last time in the high school ranks. The two also play football together and it is an opportunity Jeremy will not take lightly.

“Being able to swim with him is going to be really nice and a good family bond,” the junior said. “Joey and I started swimming back in middle school when we joined the Tridents in Laurie… It was always nice hanging out with him out of the house and being able to compete with him is one of the best things to do. In football we try to hit each other as hard as we can and in swim we try to beat each other in the 50 freestyle.”

Lapine can certainly appreciate that as he had the privilege of swimming with his older brother Blake who graduated from Camdenton this past year. The sophomore is excited not just because he made it to state, but because he will have two more opportunities to go back.

“It is actually really crazy because I grew up swimming and never really thought I’d be fast enough to go to state,” Lapine remarked.

“It has really motivated me because of all the work we have put in. I’ve never seen us work so hard and I really feel like we deserve to go to state. There is a reward for working hard.”

That hard work has continued in practice as the Lakers worked on the minute details to glide through the water and cut down times. Schulte noted that the team’s chemistry and willingness to push each other to the limits makes for a really well-rounded team that will make one more push for the final meet.

“We are tapering. That basically means we lower the meters and yardage we do and focus more on sprints and cardio, preparing our bodies for state,” the sophomore pointed out.

Ultimately, the strategy could result in more good things to come.

“All season long I changed my coaching style. I talked to Coach (Paige) McCane (Camdenton girls’ swim coach) and we started working on cycles,” Leezer stated. “We are in our taper cycle now and I think that is part of why they were able to achieve what they did because of the difference in the training. Now that they are at state, I think they are just pumped and it does not matter what I’m going to do to them. They are going to perform.”

No matter what happens this weekend, the program has taken a step forward as the team grew from seven to eight swimmers and almost all of them will be in the pool at state. The alternates Dunahee and Rosenthal will also be ready to dive in if their name is called.

“It is pretty intense,” Dunahee said of the team’s preparation. “Even for us alternatives because I’m on one of the relays and they are still making us do the hard work.”

Swimming was not even on Dunahee’s radar as he got ready for his junior year, but Schulte convinced him to make other plans. Safe to say, joining the swim team is a decision the junior was glad he made.

“I probably would not have been here if it was not for Gavin pushing me to join all summer long,” Dunahee recalled.

“I feel like we would not be where we are if we did not have everyone on to do swim.”

It has been a fun year for Rosenthal as well and the best part is that he will have three more years to glide through the pool.

“It is really fun. You get to spend a lot of time with them (teammates) making friends and memories and you can improve your time too so it is good,” he said.

Ultimately, it is a crew Leezer has been proud to coach and she noted that she was thankful for the support of the parents as well. Leezer also took the time to acknowledge the support of those who help make everything possible for the team.

“So many organizations and people have gone out of their way to accommodate a regular practice schedule for our swim teams,” she said. “Thank you to Westlake Aquatic Center, its board, managers and patrons. Also, thank you to the Camdenton City Pool and its managers for providing for us at the beginning of the season.

“Your support and encouragement helped us to reach our goal of making it to state.”

The Class 1 championships are scheduled to get underway on Friday at 5 p.m., and will continue on Saturday at the City of St. Peters Rec-Plex.