Swimmers qualify eight for state
Based on seed times, Todd Fritze expected a close battle between Park Rapids and Bemidji to determine the Section 8A girls swimming and diving champion.
A down-to-the-wire finish was avoided when the Panthers clocked 30 season-best times during Friday's preliminaries at Bemidji and followed with 17 more season bests during Saturday's finals.
Despite not winning a single event, the Panthers relied on their quality depth to easily repeat as section champs.
The Panthers advanced 24 swimmers, all four divers and all three relay teams to Saturday with strong performances during Friday's preliminaries. Of the 24 swimmers, 17 earned spots in the finals while the other seven advanced to the consolation finals.
In the finals, the Panthers had another strong showing in tallying 422.50 points and advancing eight swimmers in eight events for the state Class A meet. Bemidji finished a distant second with 307.50 points while Fergus Falls was third with 278 points in this nine-team meet.
Park Rapids set two school records and qualified for state in eight of the 12 events to repeat as section champs.
Emily Creager clocked a runner-up 2:01.44 in the 200-yard freestyle to break Tavia Schumacher's 2002 record of 2:02.21 and the 400 freestyle relay team of Katherine Erickson, Leah Meinert, Hannah Williams and Creager clocked a runner-up 3:47.61 to break the 2001 school record of 3:48.24 set by Schumacher, Angie Behrens, Heidi Koeller and Caroline Schik.
Also earning state berths with runner-up finishes were the 200 medley relay team of Erickson, Mandy Schirmers, Allycia Zinke and Lauren Rossman (1:55.19); Schirmers in the 200 individual medley (2:21.98); Creager in the 100 freestyle (55.75); the 200 freestyle relay team of Zinke, Schirmers, Rossman and Creager (1:43.71); Erickson in the 100 backstroke (1:01.87); and Schirmers in the 100 breaststroke (1:10.52). Taylor Ondracek also qualified by placing third in the 100 backstroke by meeting the state-cut time with a 1:01.95.
The eight state qualifiers are the most in a single season in the history of the Park Rapids girls swimming program while the section title was the sixth for the Panthers.
"This was a special meet," said Fritze, who was named the Section 8A Coach of the Year. "I told the girls they needed to swim well on Friday to get us in position. The girls stepped up and swam really well. The girls were pretty confident on Saturday. After we won the medley, the flood gates opened."
Now the Panthers will be looking to continue to improve their times and score points in multiple events at the state meet, which will hold preliminaries Friday at noon and finals Saturday at noon at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
"Our girls have matured as swimmers. They're a lot more mentally tough. Those are the type of swimmers who score points down there," said Fritze. "If you want to do anything at state, you have to drop time. If we stay even or drop some time, we'll be in a good situation."
Panthers shine on first day
The Panthers put themselves in position to defend their title with 30 season-best times during Friday's preliminaries.
Erickson, Schirmers, Zinke and Rossman opened the meet with a runner-up 1:56.50 in the 200 medley relay.
Creager (2:02.62) and Erickson (2:05.21) went 2-3 in the 200 freestyle while Seri Erickson (25th in 2:25.57) and Alyza Edevold (26th in 2:26.06) missed advancing to the finals.
Park Rapids sent four swimmers to the finals of the 200 individual medley as Schirmers (second in 2:21.93), Williams (third in 2:24.54), Meinert (fourth in 2:24.56) and Zinke (sixth in 2:25.82) finished in the top-six spots.
Ondracek finished fifth in 26.12 and Rossman was ninth in 26.47 in the 50 freestyle. Christina Mackley (21st in 28.19) and Taylor Graham (28th in 28.97) missed qualifying for the finals.
Ellen Hoffman (eighth with 199.25 points), Jessica Andersen (ninth with 195 points), Emily Klingenberg (15th with 154.50 points) and Heather Kniss (16th with 147.85 points) all qualified for the finals in diving.
Zinke took third in the 100 butterfly with a 1:05.46 while Graham (ninth in 1:08.87) and Mackley (15th in 1:13.04) advanced to the consolation finals. Elizabeth Nichols just missed a spot in the consolation finals with a 1:13.82 for 17th place.
In the 100 freestyle, Creager finished second in 56.76 and Rossman tied for sixth place with a 58.62 to reach the finals while Kniss finished 14th in 1:00.00 to earn a spot in the consolation finals.
Meinert (fourth in 5:38.20) and Haas (seventh in 5:54.03) qualified for the finals in the 500 freestyle. Missing the cut were Seri Erickson (18th in 6:23.05) and Edevold (25th in 6:38.26).
Zinke, Schirmers, Rossman and Creager finished second in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:45.65.
Ondracek (1:02.27) and Katherine Erickson (1:02.48) went 1-2 in the 100 backstroke to advance to the finals while Andersen (13th in 1:11.68) and Hoffman (15th in 1:12.58) qualified for the consolation finals.
The Panthers had four swimmers reach the finals in the 100 breaststroke. Schirmers was second in 1:11.97, Williams was fifth in 1:13.83 and Haas was seventh in 1:16.70 to advance to the finals while Jessie O'Hern finished 10th in 1:18.58 to earn a spot in the consolation finals.
Park Rapids capped off preliminaries with a third-place 3:54.84 in the 400 freestyle relay. Katherine Erickson, Williams, Haas and Creager comprised that relay team on Friday.
Panthers excel in finals
Qualifying for state in the first event Saturday set the tone for the entire day.
Katherine Erickson (with a 29.74 in the backstroke), Schirmers (with a 31.76 in the breaststroke), Zinke (with a 28.27 in the butterfly) and Rossman (with a 25.42 in the freestyle) combined for a 1:55.19 to finish second in the 200 medley relay. That time topped the state cut time of 1:56.48 and gave the Panthers their first 34 points.
Creager broke the school record with a runner-up time of 2:01.44 in the 200 freestyle to top the state-cut time of 2:01.47 and qualify for state. Katherine Erickson finished third in 2:02.65 as the Panthers added 33 points to their team total.
The Panthers scored 62 points in the 200 individual medley as Schirmers' runner-up 2:21.98 led the way. Zinke (2:23.21), Meinert (2:23.37) and Williams (2:24.54) followed in the 3-4-5 spots.
Ondracek finished fifth in 26.38 and Rossman placed 11th in 26.56 as the Panthers scored 20 points in the 50 freestyle.
In diving, Andersen (eighth with 274.25 points), Hoffman (ninth with 267.75 points), Kniss (15th with 209.90 points) and Klingenberg (16th with 189.80 points) added 23 points to the team total.
Zinke finished third in 1:04.89, Graham was ninth in 1:07.42 and Mackley placed 14th in 1:12.47 as the Panthers scored 28 points in the 100 butterfly.
Creager clocked a 55.74 for runner-up honors while Rossman clocked a 58.20 for fourth place in the 100 freestyle. Kniss finished 14th in 1:00.01 as the Panthers added 35 points to their team score in that event.
Meinert finished third in 5:38.01 and Haas was seventh in 5:58.10 as the Panthers scored 28 points in the 500 freestyle.
Zinke (26.79), Schirmers (25.86), Rossman (25.58) and Creager (25.48) teamed up for a runner-up 1:43.71 in the 200 freestyle relay to qualify for state. That showing added 34 points to the Panthers' team score.
Katherine Erickson (second in 1:01.87) and Ondracek (third in 1:01.95) both topped the state-cut time of 1:04.15 to qualify for state in the 100 backstroke. Andersen finished 13th in 1:12.06 and Hoffman tied for 14th place with a 1:12.54 as the Panthers scored 39.50 points in that event.
Schirmers' runner-up 1:10.52, Williams' fourth-place 1:14.70, Haas' eighth-place 1:17.67 and O'Hern's ninth-place 1:18.75 led to 52 points in the 100 breaststroke. Schirmers topped the state-cut time of 1:11.49 to advance to state.
The Panthers capped off the meet by qualifying for state with a runner-up 3:47.61 in the 400 freestyle relay. Katherine Erickson (57.05), Meinert (57.62), Williams (57.46) and Creager (55.48) broke the school record and scored the final 34 points for the Panthers.
Team scores: Park Rapids 422.50, Bemidji 307.50, Fergus Falls 278, Detroit Lakes 266, Perham/New York Mills 243, Warroad/Roseau 214, Thief River Falls 149.50, Crookston 131.50, Fosston/Bagley 123.
200 medley relay: 1, Fergus Falls (Abby Fisher, Heidi Busack, Susie Kitman, Taylor Monk), 1:52.42. 2, Park Rapids (Katherine Erickson, Mandy Schirmers, Allycia Zinke, Lauren Rossman), 1:55.19.
200 freestyle: 1, Steph Frey, B, 1:56.07 (section record; old record: 1:59.68 by Karley Sylvester, W, in 2009). 2, Emily Creager, PR, 2:01.44. 3, Katherine Erickson, PR, 2:02.65. 25, Seri Erickson, PR, 2:25.57. 26, Alyza Edevold, PR, 2:26.06.
200 individual medley: 1, Melissa Paakh, DL, 2:17.08. 2, Mandy Schirmers, PR, 2:21.98. 3, Allycia Zinke, PR, 2:23.21. 4, Leah Meinert, PR, 2:23.37. 5, Hannah Williams, PR, 2:24.54.
50 freestyle: 1, Heidi Busack, FF, 24.23 (section record; old record: 24.39 by Busack in 2009). 2, Taylor Monk, FF, 25.47. 5, Taylor Ondracek, PR, 26.38. 11, Lauren Rossman, PR, 26.56. 21, Christina Mackley, PR, 28.19. 28, Taylor Graham, PR, 28.97.
Diving: 1, Kyley Foster, DL, 341.20 points. 2, Jana Hedstrom, B, 324.55. 3, Kayla Colden, W/R, 311.70. 4, Rachel Appert, FF, 299.45. 8, Jessica Andersen, PR, 274.25. 9, Ellen Hoffman, PR, 267.75. 15, Heather Kniss, PR, 209.90. 16, Emily Klingenberg, PR, 189.80.
100 butterfly: 1, Melissa Paakh, DL, 59.74. 2, Susie Kitzman, FF, 1:02.10. 3, Allycia Zinke, PR, 1:04.89. 9, Taylor Graham, PR, 1:07.42. 14, Christina Mackley, PR, 1:12.47. 17, Elizabeth Nichols, PR, 1:13.82.
100 freestyle: 1, Heidi Busack, FF, 52.74 (section record; old record: 42.95 by Busack in 2009). 2, Emily Creager, PR, 55.75. 4, Lauren Rossman, PR, 58.20. 14, Heather Kniss, PR, 1:00.01.
500 freestyle: 1, Libby Larson, DL, 5:31.15. 2, Lexie Hendricks, B, 5:32.98. 3, Leah Meinert, PR, 5:38.01. 7, Melissa Haas, PR, 5:58.10. 18, Seri Erickson, PR, 6:23.05. 25, Alyza Edevold, PR, 6:38.26.
200 freestyle relay: 1, Fergus Falls (Taylor Monk, Abby Fisher, Dani Ross, Susie Kitzman), 1:43.09. 2, Park Rapids (Allycia Zinke, Mandy Schirmers, Lauren Rossman, Emily Creager), 1:43.71.
100 backstroke: 1, Abby Fisher, FF, 1:01.84. 2, Katherine Erickson, PR, 1:01.87. 3, Taylor Ondracek, PR, 1:01.95. 4, Gracie Daniels, TRF, 1:03.15. 13, Jessica Andersen, PR, 1:12.06. 14 (tie), Ellen Hoffman, PR, 1:12.54.
100 breaststroke: 1, Steph Frey, B, 1:08.04. 2, Mandy Schirmers, PR, 1:10.52. 3, Kelsey Kratzke, PNYM, 1:10.59. 4, Hannah Williams, PR, 1:14.70. 8, Melissa Haas, PR, 1:17.67. 9, Jessie O'Hern, PR, 1:18.75.
400 freestyle relay: 1, Fergus Falls (Susie Kitzman, Taylor Monk, Sophie Carlson, Heidi Busack), 3:41.96. 2, Park Rapids (Katherine Erickson, Leah Meinert, Hannah Williams, Emily Creager), 3:47.61.