Shhhh! Riegert quiets most foes
Some get dressed a certain way.
Others have a certain song that pumps them up.
Alex Riegert has his own ritual. He immerses himself in total silence.
And that silence that has been golden for the Delavan-Darien High School senior swimmer.
Riegert is the defending WIAA Division 2 state champion in the 100 breaststroke and a serious threat to not only repeat, but also break the state record.
Does the pre-race solitude make a big difference?
“Yeah, it really does,” Riegert said. “I like to get in my own little world where it has to be really quiet. That helps me focus and concentrate on the race.
“I might listen to a little music, but right before the race, I don’t like anyone around me or to hear anything.”
Riegert, the son of Chuck and Val, won two races last Saturday in the Southern Lakes Conference meet at UW-Platteville. He won his specialty—the 100 breaststroke—in 1:02.27 and the 50 freestyle in 23.0.
The 1:02.27 time in the 100 breaststroke is nearly five seconds off his winning time at state a year ago (57.93), but Riegert has a simple explanation for that. He only swims all-out at the state meet so he can conserve energy leading up to it.
When you win state by more than a second-and-a-half and are bearing down on a state record, it’s hard to argue with that logic.
Even one of Riegert’s coach’s at Delavan-Darien, Ryan DeBuck, doesn’t question the strategy.
“He knows what he’s doing,” DeBuck said of Riegert. “He’s very technique-oriented, and one of his biggest assets is that he sets the bar very high for himself. We know when the gun goes off at state, no one will be more prepared for that race than Alex.
“Alex excels at whatever he does. He takes pretty much all AP (advanced placement) classes at school and ranks right up near the top of his class. And in the pool, no one works harder.”
Riegert will be back in the 100 breaststroke and also will likely swim the 100 freestyle, along with two relays, as sectional competition begins Saturday at Cudahy. The state record in the Division 2 breaststroke is 56.62 set by McFarland’s Derrick O’Donnell in 2006.
“It’s attainable. That’s for sure,” Riegert said. “But I’ve also worked probably as hard this year as any to try and give myself a chance to break the record.
“I’ve been staying after practice for an extra half-hour or so to work on little things to improve my time.
“The most important thing we’ve been working on is ‘getting the pop,’ which sets up the most powerful part of the stroke.”
If Riegert wins a second straight breaststroke title, he will give the school two state champions in the event in the same school year. Classmate and good friend Emily McClellan won the girls 100 breaststroke in Division 2 at the state meet in November.
Riegert has narrowed his college choices to the University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago, with a slight edge right now to the Badgers. He hopes to swim at state at the UW-Natatorium, which is home to the Badger men’s and women’s teams.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard and stay after it,” Riegert said. “I set the bar high for myself, but I also think my goals are very attainable.
“There are so many little things that happen during a race that can slow you down or speed you up, such as hand positions, and that’s what I’ve been working on after practice every day.”
Very quietly, Alex Riegert has made a big splash.