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Osseo record-breaker delivers despite getting late start

01/29/2013, 4:29pm CST
By Star Tribune

Nolan Vander Ploeg

Osseo put swimmers in the boys' state meet last season for the first time in about a decade, a resurgence led by Nolan Vander Ploeg.

As a sophomore, Vander Ploeg competed in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events and swam a leg of the 200 medley relay. As a junior this season, he has set six pool records and wiped a school record off the books.

Not bad for a guy who started competitive swimming as a seventh-grader. But a strong work ethic made up for what he lacked in experience.

"Typically, when it comes to the impossible, Nolan Vander Ploeg never fails to deliver," said Marshall Abrahamson, Osseo boys' swimming and diving coach.

There is much more to Vander Ploeg than what he does in the water. He has been taking private piano lessons for 10 years and plans to perform at the senior recital next year. He is a lifeguard. He enjoys camping in the Boundary Waters and competing in triathlons.

Vander Ploeg touched on many of these topics with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque.

Q Did all your success last year push you to train more intensely for this year?

A Well, I was really glad to have made it to state my sophomore year. That was my goal. So I've been working harder to be even better this year. Last summer I swam with my club team, New Hope-Crystal-Plymouth, for the first time because I really was getting serious about my swimming career. God has gifted me with a healthy body to be able to do this so I do work really hard at it.

Q Tell me about the records you've been setting this season.

A We broke the 200 medley relay record at Anoka. We actually tied with Anoka so technically we both broke the pool record. I broke the 500 freestyle record and our 200 medley relay broke the record at Champlin Park. I also broke the 500 record and helped break the 200 medley relay record at St. Louis Park. And I broke the Osseo High School record for the 500.

Q That Osseo record stood since 1979. At which meet did you break that record?

A It was against Park Center on Dec. 20. What's funny is, my parents almost never miss a meet but they had made plans about six weeks earlier to go to my grandparents' house, so they missed that one.

Q How soon after the meet were you able to give them the news?

A My brother was there videotaping and one of my mom's friends was texting her my splits during that race. So she knew right away.

Q Which events do you hope to swim at state this year?

A I'll be doing the 500 again. That's my one race that I really focus on. I'm going to do the 50 freestyle this year instead of the 200. I think I can do better than I would in the 200. And then the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays.

Q Talk about your experience with triathlons.

A I started doing the Okoboji Triathlon in Iowa when I was in the eighth grade. I just wanted to finish it, just survive. I believe it was six-tenths of a mile swim, 23-mile bike and a 5 1/2-mile run. It wasn't super long and it wasn't a sprint triathlon. I really liked it and I've kept doing it. It's kind of a family tradition; my brother and my parents compete in it, too. It was kind of cool because last summer I got out of the water first in the swimming portion. I didn't do so well in the running and biking, but I think they were respectable.

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