While the Great Northern Conference boys' swimming championship won't be decided until this coming Friday at the conference meet, Lakeland Union High School had a chance to reach a milestone on Thursday.
With a win at Rhinelander, the Thunderbirds would finish the regular season a perfect 10-0 in dual meets for the second consecutive season. It would also extend their conference winning streak to 27 in a row, with the last loss coming to the Hodags on Dec. 10, 2015.
Lakeland didn't need much to vanquish Rhinelander, though, winning 101-67 to finish the regular season unblemished. It also allowed the senior class - which started during the first year for coaches Chris and Robert Garcia - to finish their careers 37-3 in conference dual meets.
"They are a really hardworking group," Chris Garcia. "Reed (Smolinski) came in last year, but that other core group of Neil Borden, Jack Metzger, Jack Garcia, Grant Gibson, Scott Bresnahan - they're a really good group of guys. They work well together, they push each other. It'll be sad when they leave."
Gibson was a quadruple winner, taking the 200 and 500-yard freestyle races, while also serving as a member of the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams.
Tyler Teichmiller won three events, including the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, while also being a member of the 200 freestyle relay team.
Alex Tucker won the 100 butterfly, handing Jack Garcia his first loss in a conference dual meet this season. Tucker's time of 57.75 seconds was 0.16 seconds faster than Garcia, who won the 50 freestyle the race before and was also a member of the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams. Tucker was also part of the 400 freestyle relay.
Brandon Boh was also an individual winner, taking the 100 freestyle with a time of 52.0.
Lakeland has a chance to shoot for a second consecutive conference championship on Friday and has the home pool advantage.
While the T-Birds have aspirations of a sectional championship and perhaps a state championship after being ranked No. 2 in the state in Division 2 by the Wisconsin Swim Coaches Association last week, winning another conference title is still important.
"It's a pretty big deal to everybody," Garcia said. "We definitely want to repeat from last year, but we're a little bit smaller. Like every year, every person counts. It won't just be the people that take first and second, it's going to be the people that take third, fourth and fifth places, all the way down to 16th, that are really going to matter. So we're going to be counting on everybody."
On Saturday, Lakeland returned to the pool for its final event of the regular season, taking part in an invitational at Plymouth.
With 19 teams in the meet, Lakeland would face some of the top competition in the state, perhaps a preview for the WIAA meet. The T-Birds managed to take third place, just one point behind second place Madison Edgewood, while Monona Grove, the defending Division 2 state champion, won the meet.
"We kind of went into this meet not looking for best swims or best times, but for the experience of being in a big invite atmosphere and some really good competition, because a lot of these schools we will see at state," Garcia said.
The big news of the meet was the 400 freestyle relay team breaking its own school record en route to a second place finish. The team of Boh, Tucker, Gibson and Jack Garcia swam a time of 3:21.59.
Meanwhile Gibson took second in the 100 freestyle fifth in the 50 freestyle. Liam Hogan took ninth in the 50 freestyle, while also taking sixth in the 500.
Tucker was ninth in the 100 butterfly, while Teichmiller was 14th in the 100 breaststroke.
The 200 freestyle relay team of Boh, Hogan and Gibson took third with a time of 1:32.23.
Jack Garcia had an opportunity to duel with defending state champion and Indiana University commit Ben McDade in the 500 freestyle. Garcia took second place with a time of 4:53.46.
"Ben McDade was probably about 25 yards ahead of him, but it was a pretty good race for second," Chris Garcia said. "Jack did well. It was a pretty good time for where we are right now. It wasn't his best time, but we do not want best times right now. They're swimming tired and we haven't rested at all. I think the guys were pretty surprised by where they placed in regards to the other teams not being rested at all."
Lakeland hosts the Great Northern Conference meet on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.