Two members of the Superior-Douglas County YMCA Whalers swim team have qualified for the 2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games.Superior’s Mason Larsen and Two Harbors’ Travis Elling, both 12, will compete in the junior games Thursday through Sunday at the Wellmark Aquatic Center in Des Moines.

Prior to qualifying for the Junior Olympics, both swimmers qualified for and swam at the YMCA state and YMCA North Central regional swim meets.

The state meet was Feb. 17-18 at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center and the North Central Regional Meet was March 17-18 in Des Moines at the same location of the Junior Games.

Larsen placed third at the YMCA state meet in the 50 and 100 backstrokes, with times of 32.94 seconds and 1:13.72, respectively, while Elling was second in the 100 freestyle (1:04.93) and third in the 500 freestyle (6:17.06).

At the North Central Regional, Larsen set local YMCA records in the 200 backstroke (2:36.13) and 100 backstroke (1:09.61), while Elling set a new YMCA mark in the 1,000 free with a second-place time of 12:58.58.

Larsen and Elling also helped set two relay records records this past season: the 400 free relay (11-12 age group) along with Paolo Pagnucci and Noah Krieg and the 400 medley relay (13-14 age group) with Paolo Pagnucci and Ryan Peterson.

“The tremendous thing is they are on the bottom end of the age group,” YMCA Whaler coach Stefan Pagnucci said. “So they were 11 at the time, meaning they have one more year in that same age group and should probably break their own records and anything else they can notch off the (record) board next year.

“They both had tremendous seasons and we look forward to what next year holds. These boys have a lot of records to set before they are done.”

Before looking ahead to next season, both swimmers will be busy this weekend with Elling swimming in eight events and Larsen seven during the five-day junior games.

They will both swim in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 50 back, 100 back and 50 breaststroke, while Elling will also compete in the 400 free and 100 breaststroke and Larson in the 50 butterfly.

The top 16 swimmers in the preliminary races will make the final, which included two heads of eight swimmers each to determine the champion.

The top eight finishers will receive podium recognition.

Heading into the junior games, Larsen is seeded No. 1 in the 100 backstroke and No. 4 in the 50 backstroke.

“I want to finish in the top three in as many events as I can, but especially in the 100 backstroke because I am the No. 1 seed,” Larsen said. “I’ve never swam in a long-course pool before - it’s always been a short-course - so it’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be way different without a flip turn every 25 meters.”

Elling, who is seeded No. 3 in the 100 backstroke and No. 4 in the 200 and 400 freestyle events, also wants to finish in the top three in as many events possible.

“Mason and Travis are both great leaders on the team, have the right attitude, the right practice attitude and the right meet attitude,” Pagnucci said. “They’re a lot of fun to work with, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for them. They certainly have good, healthy swim careers ahead of them.”

NOTES: Larsen and Elling are also busy away from the pool. Larsen, whose parents are Aaron and Alissa Larsen, plays football and is on the Solon Springs War Eagles traveling baseball team, while Elling, the son of Mike and Jo Lynn Elling, competes in the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series. … Besides swimming for the Superior Whalers during the winter season, Travis Elling is a member of the Lake Superior Swim Club in Duluth. …  Pagnucci’s assistant coaches are his wife, Shawn Pagnucci, Val Poynter, Jess Melander and Sophia Parr. Paige Booker and Rosa Palmer, also qualified for the junior games but will be unable to compete.