And at the end, someone drew cheers for power-eating a banana.

That sums up the vibe—competitive, but fun—that permeated Friday’s Big Eight Conference boys swimming dual between Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker.

Craig won the meet, 100-58, earning first places in seven of the 11 events. But it was common to see swimmers from one school cheering on those from the other, with fist bumps between Cougars and Vikings common after events.

And after the final event, all the swimmers from both teams gathered around as Craig senior David Cummings climbed on a starting block and ate a banana while both teams chanted from a nursery rhyme: “Eat! Banana!”

“These kids all know each other from over the years,” Craig coach Matt Palma said. “Ideally we would have liked the Parker meet to be later in the season. But it’s good to swim against them anytime.”

“It took about half the meet for my guys to realize that this was a rivalry meet,” Parker coach Eric Rhodes said. “Once that dawned on them, they looked pretty good.”

After both teams had last year’s swim season cut drastically short due to COVID-19, Friday’s meet gave fans a glimpse at Craig’s improving present and budding future.

Junior Ben Witt was part of four victories for Craig, winning the 100-yard freestyle (1 minute, 52.51 seconds) and 200 individual medley (2:05.83) and swimming on the winning 200 freestyle relay (1:39.69) and 400 freestyle relay (3:39.78).

“He’s our top guy. He had a great season last year and he’s continuing that this year,” Palma said.

Witt swam the anchor leg in both relay races, and both times Craig trailed as he dived into the pool. But, both times, Witt powered Craig to comfortable victories with his performances.

“I like to put him in those tough spots because I know he’ll come through,” Palma said.

“I feel like I am faster under pressure. It’s the motivation of seeing someone right next to you,” Witt said. “It helps you dig deep.”

Another eye-opening performance came from Craig freshman Jameson Punzel, who won the 200 free (1:56.67) and 100 backstroke (1:01.28) and led off both winning relays.

“I thought the 200 free went pretty well,” Punzel said. “I was originally in the 500 (freestyle), but they decided to put me in the 100 backstroke instead.”

Also for Craig, Cummings won the 50 freestyle (:23.66) and swam on both winning relays, joined by Nolan Schaaf on the 200 free relay and Carter Pickler on the 400 free relay.

Craig’s top performer was senior Jackson Ryan, who won the 100 butterfly (1:01.62) and 500 freestyle (6:05.75) and helped Parker start the meet with a victory in the 200 medley relay (1:51.38).

“In the 100 fly, Jackson already is close to where he was at the time he finished last season,” Rhodes said.

Also for Parker, team leader Zhander Rowley posted a dominant victory in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.62) and joined Quentin Houlier and Bradley Warda on the winning 200 medley relay team.


200-yard medley relay—Parker (Quentin Houlier, Zhander Rowley, Jackson Ryan, Bradley Warda), 1:51.38. 200 freestyle—Jameson Punzel, JC, 1:56.67. 200 individual medley—Ben Witt, JC, 2:05.83. 50 freestyle—David Cummings, JC, :23.66. 100 butterfly—Jackson Ryan, JP, 1:01.62. 100 freestyle—Witt, JC, :52.51. 500 freestyle—Ryan, JP, 6:05.25. 200 freestyle relay—Craig (Punzel, Cummings, Nolan Schoof, Witt), 1:39.69. 100 backstroke—Punzel, JC, 1:01.28. 100 breaststroke—Rowley, JP, 1:03.62. 400 freestyle relay—Craig (Punzel, Cummings, Carter Pichler, Witt), 3:39.78. At Craig.

Cougar Relays

On Saturday, Craig wrapped up its weekend sweep by winning the four-team Cougar Relays. Craig totaled 344 points, followed by Stoughton with 312, Parker with 258 and Elkhorn with 200.

Parker won three of the 12 events, with Rowley, Ryan and Warda each swimming on all three (the 400 medley relay, 400 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle rocket relay).

Craig won twice, with Christian Kniesel, James Gansen, Gabe Barajas and Witt winning the 400 individual medley relay and Cummings, Colin Van Sickle and Witt winning the 300 butterfly relay.

Elkhorn won the 200 medley relay, behind Tyler Bestland, Jake Dahlgren, Emmanuel Padilla and Jake Mnuk, and Bestland, Logan Wietzel, Mnuk and Dahlgren won the 200 freestyle relay.


Team scores—Craig 348, Stoughton 312, Parker 258, Elkhorn 200.

Event winners

200 medley relay—Elkhorn (Tyler Bestland, Jake Dahlgren, Emmanuel Padilla, Jake Mnuk), 1:55.37. 850 crescendo relay—Stoughton, 8:30.41. 400 individual medley relay—Craig (Christian Kneisel, James Gansen, Gabe Barajas, Ben Witt), 4:39.10. 200 freestyle relay—Elkhorn (Bestland, Logan Wietzel, Mnuk, Dahlgren), 1:44.53. 400 medley relay—Parker (Zachary Payne, Zhander Rowley, Jackson Ryan, Bradley Warda), 4 05.65. 200 freestyle class relay—Stoughton, 1:43.59. 300 butterfly relay—Craig (David Cummings, Colin Van Sickle, Witt), 3:10.10. 500 freestyle crescendo relay—Stoughton, 4:51.71. 300 backstroke relay—Stoughton, 3:04.67. 400 freestyle relay—Parker (Rowley, Ryan, Connor Rogula, Warda). 300 breaststroke relay—Stoughton, 3:35.79. 400 freestyle rocket relay—Parker (Warda, Ryan, Rowley, Rogula), 3:26.53. At Craig.


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