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Erickson places in two individual events to lead Panthers at state

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Park Rapids seniors Katherine Erickson and Hannah Williams fulfilled a goal by placing in their final appearance at the state Class A girls swimming meet.

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Erickson, Williams, junior Taylor Graham and sophomore Lauren Rossman finished 15th in the 200-yard medley relay while Erickson placed 13th in the 100 backstroke and 15th in the 200 freestyle at Saturday's state meet at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

Those three finishes gave the Panthers 10 points for 35th place. Also scoring points at the state meet from Section 8A were Bemidji (57 points for 15th place), Staples-Motley (13 points for 29th place), Fergus Falls (11 points for 31st place) and Detroit Lakes (5 points for 39th place).

In addition to those three events, the Panthers qualified for state in four other events. Junior Ellen Hoffman finished 24th during Thursday's diving preliminaries. During Friday's preliminaries, the 200 freestyle relay team of Rossman, junior Alex Pederson, freshman Kayla Andersen and senior Emily Creager finished 24th, Williams finished 18th in the 100 breaststroke, and the 400 freestyle relay team of Creager, Rossman, Williams and Erickson finished 22nd.

Hoffman, who qualified for state by placing fourth at the section meet with 314.85 points on 11 dives, missed advancing to the state semifinal round by scoring 122.30 points on her first five dives Thursday. Morgan Justus of Grand Rapids finished 20th with 128.45 points to claim the final spot in the semifinals. Northfield's Bailey Dupay had the top score of 191.30 points on Thursday and won the state title with 394.25 points after 11 dives. Hoffman placed 28th with 113.80 points at last year's state meet.

The medley relay advanced to the consolation finals by claiming the final spot with a time of 1:53.97 for 16th place. That just missed the school record of 1:53.85 set by Erickson, Mandy Schirmers, Allycia Zinke and Creager last season. Erickson opened with a 28.82 split in the backstroke, Williams went 32.15 in the breaststroke, Graham clocked a 27.46 split in the butterfly and Rossman finished with a 25.54 split in the freestyle. That relay team advanced to state with a runner-up 1:56.03 at the section meet. Park Rapids entered the state meet seeded 24th out of 26 qualifiers. Visitation had the top time of 1:48.86.

Erickson followed by advancing to the consolation finals in the 200 freestyle with a 1:59.82 for 14th place. Erickson, who qualified for state with a winning time of 2:00.24 at the section meet to break Creager's school record of 2:01.44 set in 2010, entered the state meet seeded 19th out of 25 qualifiers. Northfield's Claire Walters led the preliminaries with a 1:54.01.

In the 200 freestyle relay, Rossman (who opened with a 26.12 split), Pederson (who had a 26.28 split), Andersen (who had a 26.27 split) and Creager (who ended with a 25.53 split) missed advancing to the consolation finals by placing 24th in 1:44.20. That relay team advanced to state with a runner-up 1:44.21 at the section meet. Park Rapids entered the state meet seeded 25th out of 26 qualifiers. Monticello claimed the final spot in the consolation finals with a 1:42.63 while Mankato West took first in 1:38.56. Northfield ended up winning the state title in 1:37.06.

Erickson earned a spot in the consolation final of the 100 backstroke by finishing 14th on Friday with a 101.18. Erickson qualified for state by claiming runner-up honors at the section meet with a 1:01.09, which just missed Brandi Werner's school record of 1:00.87 set in 2005. Erickson entered the state meet seeded 12th out of 27 qualifiers. Visitation's Caroline Gaertner led the field with a 57.38.

Williams just missed advancing to Saturday's consolation finals by placing 18th in 1:11.66 during Friday's preliminaries of the 100 breaststroke. Williams, who was seeded 18th out of the 20 qualifiers, qualified for state with a runner-up 1:10.83 at the section meet. St. Louis Park's Emmi Sheng clocked a 1:10.80 for the final spot in the consolation finals while Albert Lea's Lindsey Horejsi broke the state record with a 1:00.43. Horejsi broke that record on Saturday with a winning time of 1:00.16.

Creager (with a 57.04), Rossman (with a 57.26), Williams (with a 59.70) and Erickson (with a 57.04) finished 22nd in the 400 freestyle relay with a 3:51.04. That relay team won the section title with a 3:46.47. Park Rapids entered the state meet seeded 21st out of 24 teams. Blake claimed the final spot in the consolation finals with a 3:44.03 while Northfield led the field with a 3:35.55. Mankato West ended up winning the state title in 3:32.63. Erickson and Creager swam on this relay that took 18th with a 3:51.10 in 2010 and 12th with a 3:46.01 last year.

Saturday's final started with the Panthers placing 15th with a 1:54.85 in the 200 medley relay. Erickson opened with a split of 28.94, Williams followed in 32.25, Graham clocked a 27.88 and Rossman finished in 25.78. Visitation won the state title in 1:48.10. Erickson swam on this relay that took 19th in 1:56.01 in 2009 and was on the last two medley relay teams that ended up being disqualified at the state meet.

Erickson followed by placing 15th in the 200 freestyle with a 2:00.13. Mankato West's Chantal Nack won the state title in 1:51.64.

Erickson capped off her fourth and final state trip by duplicating her preliminary time and placing 13th in the 100 backstroke with a 1:01.18. Sartell's Ellen Bloom took first in 56.36. Erickson finished 21st in this event in 1:04.81 in 2009, moved up to 18th with a 1:03.35 in 2010 and took 13th last year in 1:01.25.

"It was a good trip. The kids either stayed the same or got faster, which is all you can ask," said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze. "The girls were pretty excited after the first day. They were a little disappointed that they went slower the second day, but they have nothing to be ashamed about considering how fast the meet was. I thought the girls swam extremely well."

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