Moline swim coach Craig Frederiksen remembers when this year’s group of senior swimmers were freshmen.
It was his first year on the job, and for some reason, Moline boys swimming was at a low point.
Frederiksen almost felt his team was being picked on by opposing schools. Other teams would shift their best swimmers to events they didn't normally swim to make sure the Maroons did not even win one event.
That said, Frederiksen had seven freshmen who were varsity participants that year, including five still with the program in Jack Thompson, Alex Klumb, Ethan Luong, Avery Fowler and diver Abhi Sodhani.
Now four years later, he’s the one reaping the rewards with what could be Moline’s best boys swim team ever.
The Maroons are undefeated in invitationals as well as their five dual meets. They even won their only JV meet.
His 200-yard medley relay team of juniors Austin Morris and Peter Son and seniors Luong and Klumb even broke a school record that had stood for 39 years last Saturday at the 43rd annual Grayhound Invitational at Burlington High School.
Their time of 1 minute, 37.43 seconds bettered the 1979 school record of 1:38.19 set by John Grimes, Jeff Leinfelder, Chris McNeil and Bruce Grimes. It also broke the meet record.
Now Frederiksen, a former Moline swimmer himself, is the coach who hears the whispers that Moline is stacking its events in duals, even though all he's doing is having his swimmers race their normal events.
"I wanted to get a shirt at the beginning of the season that said 'I remember 2014,'" he said referring to the 2014-15 season where Moline took its lumps.
Having seven freshmen on varsity that year, which he felt they earned, has paid off.
“Having them in the line of fire as freshmen, having to get up and be the guys, and really be that the next two seasons, really just made them tougher than nails,” Frederiksen said. "Now, they are at the point where they are not only depth, but Saturday (at the Grayhound Invite) we showed up and they started turning sixth-place seeds into second- and first-place finishes. That’s beyond what I would call depth.”
Besides the 200 medley relay, Moline crowned champions in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke (Son), the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke (Morris), the 500-yard freestyle (Thompson) along with the 200-yard freestyle relay (Remi Greko, Luong, Avery Fowler and Alex Klumb) and the 400-yard freestyle relay (Greko, Fowler, Alex Klumb and Morris).
The Maroons dominated the 11-team invite, winning by 87 points over second-place Pleasant Valley, a team Moline had never beaten in Frederiksen’s time as coach.
Frederiksen said he’s very proud the team continues to race the clock and seek improvement. But there’s something else, too.
“What I am most proud of would probably be the caliber of competition we have had at these invites, yet still manage to win,” he said. “And win by 87 points. That was hard. At Macomb, it was not that (big of differential). Of course, we had to go against Peoria Notre Dame, and that team is ranked in the state.
“It was nice to beat them,” he added. “I don’t know how that doesn’t make us ranked, but I will figure it out.”
Moline's success has caught the attention of others. Frederiksen has received calls from Moline swimming great Bryce Bowman, an NCAA medalist who has competed at the Olympic Trials, congratulating him.
“He called me (Sunday night) and said, ‘Hey man, you guys are doing it. This is something Moline has not been poised to do ever.’”
Indeed, this could be Moline’s best boys swim team of all time.
That thought is not lost on a team that features four talented juniors — Morris, Son, Henry VanNote and Evan Juarez — along with sophomores Greko, Derek Burgin and Steven Klumb.
“It’s really special,” Alex Klumb said. “We all work really hard. We all have the same goals to get better as a team and get faster times at every meet. Just watching that happen has been really great.”
“It means the world,” said Austin, who qualified for state last year in the 100 backstroke. “The feeling of breaking such an old record that has seen great swimmer after great swimmer come in and not be able to take it down … to be the ones that get by it is truly amazing.”
“It’s really nice because that relay record has been up there for 39 years,” Son said. “It’s like really iconic because that was our goal, for us four on the relay, all the way up until we got it on Saturday. It’s just an honor to be on that relay and be exposed to such good teammates and a good coach.”
Moline still has a dual meet at home with Rock Island on Jan. 25 along with the Panther Invitational on Saturday and the Western Big Six meet on Feb. 10 at UT — all before sectionals Feb. 17. The state meet follows that.
And Morris would love to be on a crowded bus to state Feb. 23, with more Maroons making it as individuals.
"It would be a huge boost for the team," he said, “knowing that it’s not just this one guy. (Coach) is putting together a whole team of guys that are this fast.”
To end up as Moline’s best team ever would be “unfathomable,” Morris said.
“To be that good of a team in almost 100 years and even break a 39-year-old record … it’s amazing," Morris said.
"I think we can probably be the best team in Moline at least for a long time,” Luong said.