There is a tinge of sadness amid the excellence that is the Eden Prairie boys' swimming and diving team.
Mike Solfelt, a senior and a captain, is one of a half-dozen or so elite swimmers on the undefeated defending Class 2A state champions' roster. When the season concludes in early March, so will an era: A Solfelt family member has been swimming for Eden Prairie since 1996, when eldest sister Sarah joined the team.
After Sarah came Mark, then Steph and now Mike, the last Solfelt to slip into a spandex suit for the Eagles.
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked to Mike about Eden Prairie's recent run of excellence and his family's lengthy ties to the program.
Q: Nice weekend. You beat Minnetonka in a dual meet on Friday and win the Class 2A True Team meet on Saturday.
A: It was a really big deal for us. We had our biggest meet of the season Friday against Minnetonka. The team really rallied together and swam incredibly. And then we came out on Saturday and beat some powerful teams. We got to come out and show our stuff.
Q: Your team is swimming so well right now. Undefeated. Defending champs. How much fun is it right now?
A: It's so much fun to go to practice and have that competiton. You show up and have to be at your best and that translates into meets.
Q: What is it like to be on a team this good?
A: It's the culmination of all the things we've worked for. When we were freshmen, all the talk was that we couldn't wait until we were seniors. Well, now we're seniors and us little guys have done it.
Q: What sets this team apart?
A: Our sportsmanship. It's top-notch. When our meets are done, coaches always tell us how classy our team is. In some ways, that's more important than winning the meet.
Q: You're the last of the Solfelts to swim at Eden Prairie. What's that feel like?
A: It will be different, but I think its really cool to grow up in a family where swimming has always been so high of a priority. My brothers and sisters have always been great role models, and I want to live up to their standard.
Q: Do they talk to you about the family legacy at all?
A: Sometimes, but its mostly just to tell me I'm a good swimmer. There's not a lot of what I need to do. It's more supportive than anything else.
Q: Who's the best swimmer in the family?
A: If you go by state records and championships, probably Mark.
Q: Right now, who would win a 100 freestyle, you or Mark?
A: We had an alumni meet this year and I took him down.
Q: How important is high school swimming to you?
A: In my mind, it's the top season of the year. Club swimming is, essentially, about yourself. But in high school swimming, I rarely even think about my times. It's all about what I can do to further the team's success.
Q: What has swimming taught you?
A: More than anything, it's taught me life lessons about how to be a team player. When you're with your team and you have to do something to win, it's such a different feeling. It's so much bigger than just yourself.