The loss of three key seniors from a team that placed third at state may have left some to believe this was going to be a rebuilding year for the Brookfield Barracudas boys swimming and diving team.
As it turned out, Brookfield proved it had more than enough firepower to remain as one of the state's elite teams.
Junior Ryan Linnihan won an individual state championship in the 50-yard freestyle, and the Barracudas scored 176 points to take fourth place behind Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial (246), Madison Memorial (216) and Eau Claire Memorial/North (189).
"You always try to save your best for last and, fortunately, we did," Brookfield coach Bill Twitchell said. "We came into the meet seeded eighth in an obvious rebuilding year. But I guess the boys forgot to read the press on them.
"From the first event, diving, it became clear that the team had come to make a statement. Braden Rumpit set the tone moving from 25th place last year to a fourth-place finish in his sophomore campaign. The swimmers picked up the pace by moving up in every one of their swims with the exception of two races. The day was capped by the courageous and powerful performance of Ryan Linnihan in his 50 free. Like the 100 meters in track, the 50 free winner can make the claim of the fastest swimmer in the state."
Linnihan won the 50 freestyle title from Lane 2, posting a time of 20.99 seconds to beat Lian Weaver of Madison West by 0.11 seconds and Lucas Farrar of Arrowhead by 0.23 seconds.
"It was pretty unbelievable," Ryan Linnihan said. "I didn't expect to win it from Lane 2. My sectional was kind of rough. It was just a total relief and such an awesome feeling. My start at sectionals was rough. I was a body length behind the leading guy at sectionals just off the start. I had to come back from there. At state, I didn't lose too much from the start and was able to bring it back."
It is the second state championship for the program since it became a co-op between Brookfield Central and Brookfield East in 2000-01, with Linnihan joining Connor Rumpit, who won the 500 freestyle crown in 2016.
Brookfield East had 23 event state titles, and Brookfield Central collected 11 before the teams combined.
"At the 37 1/2-yard mark, I had a feeling that I could win it and this could be possible," Ryan Linnihan said. "When I touched the wall and saw Lane 2 won, it was just unbelievable. I couldn't believe I did it at this meet."
Linnihan also took fourth in the 100 freestyle with a time of 46.38 seconds. Sophomore Braden Rumpit claimed fourth in the 1-meter dive with a finals score of 403.25.
Senior Ben Attenberger took sixth in the 100 breaststroke in 58.05 seconds and eighth in the 200 freestyle in 1 minute, 42.71 seconds. Freshman Michael Linnihan was seventh in the 200 freestyle in 1:42.70 and ninth in the 100 freestyle in 47.41 seconds. Junior Sam Kult took seventh in the 100 breaststroke in 58.46 seconds and 11th in the 200 IM in 1:57.53, and sophomore Joseph Decker was 18th in the 100 butterfly in 53.89 seconds.
The relay team of Michael Linnihan, Attenberger, Kult and Ryan Linnihan came in sixth in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:11.50, and Michael Linnihan, Attenberger, junior Emer Martinez and Ryan Linnihan were sixth in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:27.81. Brookfield tied for 12th in the 200 medley relay with freshman Nick Elwing, Kult, Decker and Martinez finishing in 1:40.65.
"We lost two good seniors in Tomer Korabelnikov and Connor Rumpit," Ryan Linnihan said. "Our team was a little weary of how we were going to do this year. I knew I had to step up and fill in Connor's role on the team. I hope I did my team proud. I know we all worked really hard. I'm really proud of them."