Panthers qualify eight for state meet
Even though the Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team fell short in its quest to win the Section 8A title Saturday at Warroad, head coach Todd Fritze couldn't complain about the Panthers' effort.
During Friday's preliminaries, the Panthers clocked 33 season-best times and had all 19 swimmers and divers advance to Saturday's finals.
In the finals, the Panthers clocked 15 season bests, had all 19 swimmers score points and qualified eight individuals in seven events for the state Class A meet. However, those efforts weren't enough as Bemidji repeated as section champs with 502.50 points. Park Rapids claimed runner-up honors with 434.50 points in this 10-team meet.
Leading the Panthers to the runner-up trophy were the eight state qualifiers. Senior Katherine Erickson, senior Hannah Williams, junior Taylor Graham and sophomore Lauren Rossman advanced to state with a runner-up finish in the 200-yard medley relay. Erickson earned an individual state berth by breaking the school record to win the 200 freestyle while junior Ellen Hoffman qualified by placing fourth in diving. Rossman, junior Alex Pederson, freshman Kayla Andersen and senior Emily Creager qualified for state with a runner-up finish in the 200 freestyle relay before Erickson earned another state berth with a runner-up showing in the 100 backstroke. Williams followed with a runner-up finish in the 100 breaststroke to earn an individual trip to state before Creager, Rossman, Williams and Erickson ended the meet by winning the 400 freestyle relay to complete the Panthers' list of state qualifiers.
"If we swam well I thought we had an outside shot at possibly winning it (the section title), but Bemidji had one of the most dominant teams I've seen at the section meet in a long time," said Fritze. "We swam the best meet we could. We had every swim but one back for the second day and we had most of the girls drop time or stay about the same on Saturday. You can't complain about that. I'm happy we have eight kids going to state in seven events. I'm extremely proud of our girls."
The eight state qualifiers will attempt to advance to the state finals when the Class A meet begins Thursday with diving preliminaries at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. The swimming preliminaries will be held Friday with the top-16 finishers in each event advancing to Saturday's finals.
"We hope to stay the same or get a little faster at state," said Fritze. "We'll need to get a little faster if we want to do anything down there. These kids are mentally tough and pretty focused. We'll clean up some things and hopefully drop a little time."
Panthers shine in preliminaries
The Panthers put themselves in position to contend for the section title with a solid team performance during Friday's preliminaries.
Erickson, Williams, Graham and Rossman opened preliminaries with a winning time of 1:55.27 in the 200 medley relay. Bemidji was second in 1:57.26.
In the 200 freestyle, Erickson (2:02.16) and Creager (2:03.91) went 1-2 while Paige Fritze (11th in 2:14.42) and Seri Erickson (13th in 2:17.49) qualified for the consolation finals.
Bemidji's Steph Frey clocked the fastest time in the 200 individual medley in 2:14.87 while Williams (2:22.67) and Graham (2:24.40) followed. Tea Nyland finished ninth in 2:25.71 and Heather Kniss was 14th in 2:33.86 as all four Park Rapids swimmers advanced to the finals.
Rossman clocked a 26.23 for fifth place, Pederson was eighth in 26.96, Kayla Andersen finished ninth in 26.97 and Alyza Edevold was 10th in 27.02 as the Panthers advanced all four swimmers to the finals in the 50 freestyle. Staples-Motley's Jaelin Beachy was first in 25.40.
After the first round of dives, Hoffman was in third place with 228.40 points while Kniss was ninth with 182.95 points and Jada Current was 10th with 153.30 points. Bemidji's Kylei Grosfield was in first place with 270.10 points.
In the 100 butterfly, Graham (1:03.02) and Nyland (1:03.80) led the way while Christina Mackley finished seventh with a 1:08.47. Elizabeth Nichols advanced to the consolation finals with a 13th-place time of 1:11.83.
Creager finished fourth in the 100 freestyle in 56.98 while Fritze (13th in 1:00.99) and Emma Ellefson (14th in 1:01.09) advanced to the consolation finals. Frey led the way with a 54.43.
Bemidji's Lexie Hendrickson took first in the 500 freestyle in 5:38.74 while the Panthers advanced three to the consolation finals with Edevold's 6:00.04 for ninth place, Seri Erickson's 6:10.19 for 14th place and Mackley's 6:17.32 for 15th place. Isabella Simonson finished 24th with a 6:34.57.
Rossman, Pederson, Andersen and Creager took first in the 200 freestyle relay with a 1:46.20. Bemidji was second in 1:46.35.
Katherine Erickson led the field in the 100 backstroke with a 1:02.78 and was joined in the finals by Pederson (fourth in 1:07.02) and Hoffman (sixth in 1:07.74). Simonson qualified for the consolation finals by placing 14th in 1:12.22.
Beachy won the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.00 while Williams was second in 1:11.38. Andersen finished fourth in 1:12.48 and Jessie O'Hern took seventh in 1:15.87 while Ellefson qualified for the consolation finals with a 1:20.42 for 13th place.
The Panthers ended the meet with another winning time as Creager, Rossman, Williams and Katherine Erickson clocked a 3:53.84 in the 400 freestyle relay. Bemidji was second in 3:57.18.
Panthers qualify in seven events
The medley relay set the tone during Saturday's finals as the Panthers qualified for state in seven events.
Katherine Erickson, Williams, Graham and Rossman earned the team's first state berth with a runner-up 1:56.03 in the 200 medley relay for 34 points. Bemidji took first with a 1:54.08.
The Panthers scored 48 points in the 200 freestyle, led by Katherine Erickson's winning time of 2:00.24. That time broke Creager's school record of 2:01.44 set in 2010. Creager was third in 2:02.90, Fritze finished ninth with a 2:13.60 and Seri Erickson finished 14th in 2:20.48.
In the 200 individual medley, Williams took fourth in 2:22.55 and Graham was sixth in 2:24.26. Nyland took ninth in 2:26.41 and Kniss finished 12th in 2:32.57 as the Panthers scored 42 points in that event. Frey won the section title in 2:14.32.
Rossman's fourth-place 25.80 and Pederson's eighth-place 27.23 led the Panthers in the 50 freestyle. Andersen was 10th in 27.11 and Edevold took 12th in 27.49 as the Panthers added 38 points to their team total. Beachy led the field with a 24.71.
Hoffman earned a trip to state by placing fourth in diving with 314.85 points. The Panthers scored 30 points in diving as Kniss finished ninth with 260.40 points and Current was 11th with 212.60 points. Grosfield took first with 384.80 points.
Park Rapids scored 41 points in the 100 butterfly behind Nyland (fifth in 1:05.13), Graham (sixth in 1:05.56), Mackley (eighth in 1:08.57) and Nichols (14th in 1:12.21). Fergus Falls' Abby Fisher took first in 1:02.38.
Creager just missed another trip to state by placing third in the 100 freestyle with a 56.68. Fritze finished 13th in 1:01.47 and Ellefson was 15th in 1:02.48 as the Panthers scored 22 points in that event. Frey took first with a 54.13.
Seri Erickson's 6:10.93 for 11th place and Mackley's 6:20.76 for 14th place led the Panthers to 9 points in the 500 freestyle. Edevold was disqualified. Hendricks led the way with a winning time of 5:24.04.
A runner-up 1:44.21 by Rossman, Pederson, Andersen and Creager in the 200 freestyle relay gave Park Rapids 34 points and another state trip in a relay. Bemidji edged the Panthers with a 1:43.54.
Park Rapids scored 51 points in the 100 backstroke behind Katherine Erickson's runner-up 1:01.09, Pederson's fourth-place 1:06.45, Hoffman's sixth-place 1:08.60 and Simonson's 11th-place 1:09.74. Fisher won that race with a 1:00.53.
Williams qualified for state with a runner-up 1:10.83 in the 100 breaststroke while Andersen followed with a 1:11.39 for a share of third place. O'Hern's seventh-place 1:16.65 and Ellefson's 16th-place 1:23.28 gave the Panthers 45.50 points in that event. Beachy won the section title with a 1:06.58.
The Panthers capped off the meet in style as Creager, Rossman, Williams and Katherine Erickson clocked a winning time of 3:53.84 for 40 points in the 400 freestyle relay. Bemidji finished second in 3:52.88.
"The girls swam really well the first day. The great thing about the second day was everybody swam and everybody scored points," said Fritze. "The medley set the tone. When the medley qualified, it took some of the pressure off. We qualified in seven events and were close in a few more events. You can't be disappointed when you swim season bests and lifetime bests. The girls should be very happy with how they did."
Team scores: Bemidji 502.50, Park Rapids 434.50, Fergus Falls 248, Perham/New York Mills 191, Detroit Lakes 188.50, Warroad 147, Crookston 118, Staples-Motley 110, Fosston/Bagley 94, Thief River Falls 63.50.
200 medley relay: 1, Bemidji, 1:54.08. 2, Park Rapids (K. Erickson Williams, Graham, Rossman), 1:56.03.
200 freestyle: 1, K. Erickson, PR, 2:00.24. 2, Hendricks, B, 2:01.73. 3, Creager, PR, 2:02.90. 9, Fritze, PR, 2:13.60. 14, S. Erickson, PR, 2:20.48.
200 individual medley: 1, Frey, B, 2:14.32. 2, Arndt, B, 2:20.56. 4, Williams, PR, 2:22.55. 6, Graham, PR, 2:24.26. 9, Nyland, PR, 2:26.41. 12, Kniss, PR, 2:32.57.
50 freestyle: 1, Beachy, SM, 24.71. 2, Murphy, PNYM, 25.21. 4, Rossman, PR, 25.80. 8, Pederson, PR, 27.23. 10, K. Andersen, PR, 27.11. 12, Edevold, PR, 27.49.
Diving: 1, Grosfield, B, 384.40 points. 2, Foster, DL, 363.80. 3, Olds, DL, 321.35. 4, Hoffman, PR, 314.85. 9, Kniss, PR, 260.40. 11, Current, PR, 212.60.
100 butterfly: 1, Fisher, FF, 1:02.38. 2, McRae, B, 1:02.99. 5, Nyland, PR, 1:05.13. 6, Graham, PR, 1:05.56. 8, Mackley, PR, 1:08.57. 14, Nichols, PR, 1:12.21.
100 freestyle: 1, Frey, B, 54.13. 2, Murphy, PNYM, 55.27. 3, Creager, PR, 56.68. 13, Fritze, PR, 1:01.47. 15, Ellefson, PR, 1:02.48.
500 freestyle: 1, Hendricks, B, 5:24.04. 2, Wright, B, 5:38.98. 11, S. Erickson, PR, 6:10.93. 14, Mackley, PR, 6:20.76. 24, Simonson, PR, 6:34.57.
200 freestyle relay: 1, Bemidji, 1:43.54. 2, Park Rapids (Rossman, Pederson, K. Andersen, Creager), 1:44.21.
100 backstroke: 1, Fisher, FF, 1:00.53. 2, K. Erickson, PR, 1:01.09. 4, Pederson, PR, 1:06.45. 6, Hoffman, PR, 1:08.60. 11, Simonson, PR, 1:09.74.
100 breaststroke: 1, Beachy, SM, 1:06.58. 2, Williams, PR, 1:10.83. 3, K. Andersen, PR, 1:11.39. 7, O'Hern, PR, 1:16.65. 16, Ellefson, PR, 1:23.28.
400 freestyle relay: 1, Park Rapids (Creager, Rossman, Williams, K. Erickson), 3:53.84. 2, Bemidji, 3:57.18.