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Swimmers fulfill goal by reaching consolation finals at state meet

Advancing to the consolation finals at the state Class A girls swimming and diving meet fulfilled the main goal for Park Rapids' Mandy Schirmers, Allycia Zinke, Emily Creager and Katherine Erickson.

During Saturday's finals at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Erickson capped off her junior season by breaking her own school record in the 500-yard freestyle by placing 13th in 5:23.42 and followed by placing 13th in the 100 backstroke with a 1:01.25. Schirmers capped off her senior season by finishing 11th in the 100 breaststroke in 1:08.68. Zinke, a senior, and Creager, a junior, joined Erickson and Schirmers in the 400 freestyle relay, which finished 12th in 3:46.01.

Those four showings gave the Panthers 24 points to finish 26th in the team standings. That was the Panthers' best finish at state since finishing 20th with 32 points in 2005.

"I was ecstatic with how well we swam and with how Ellen dove," said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze. "Everybody swam the second day. It was a fast meet, but our times were reasonable. We either stayed the same or went a little faster. It was a great meet."

Those four, along with sophomore Ellen Hoffman, combined to qualify for the state meet in 10 events. Hoffman made her state debut in diving on Thursday and finished 28th with 113.80 points after the first five dives. The top 20 received three more dives while the top 16 advanced to the finals. A total of 32 divers qualified for the state meet with Northfield's Bailey Dupay claiming top honors with 405.50 points.

During Friday's preliminaries, the Panthers got off to a bad start when Erickson, Schirmers, Zinke and Creager were disqualified in the 200 medley relay. That group won the Section 8A title by breaking the school record with a 1:53.85 to enter state seeded No. 13 out of 24 teams. Erickson, Schirmers and Zinke swam on this relay team that was also disqualified at state last season. Hutchinson had the top preliminary time of 1:49.43 while Perham finished 20th in 1:57.33. Fergus Falls was also disqualified. Hutchinson ended up winning the state title with a 1:49.07.

Creager, who was seeded No. 18 out of 21 qualifiers in the 200 freestyle with her section-winning time of 2:04.22, clocked a 2:07.49 for 19th place during Friday's preliminaries. Creager was looking to break her school record of 2:01.44. Bemidji's Lexie Hendricks finished 18th in 2:06.19. St. Louis Park's Kailey DeLozier claimed the final spot in the consolation finals with a 2:00.32. Sartell's Marisa Wood set a Class A record by winning the state title with a 1:48.86.

Schirmers, who entered the state meet seeded No. 19 out of 26 qualifiers in the 200 individual medley, finished 25th on Friday with a 2:23.28. Schirmers broke the school record with a section runner-up time of 2:16.58. Hutchinson's Erin Hawker earned the final spot in the consolation finals with a 2:15.50 while Bemidji's Steph Frey took third in 2:08.68. Sartell's Ellen Bloom ended up winning the state title in 2:03.86 while Frey was third in 2:08.26.

Zinke just missed advancing to the consolation finals in the 100 butterfly with a 1:01.94 for 17th place. Monticello's Paige Anderson clocked a 1:01.78 for the final berth in the consolation finals. Bemidji's Erin Arndt also missed advancing by placing 20th in 1:03.35. Zinke advanced to state by finishing second at the section meet with a 1:04.85 and was seeded No. 20 out of 22 qualifiers. Zinke topped her career best of 1:02.85, but missed Kyja Penning's school record of 1:01.20. Mankato West's Danielle Nack broke the state Class A record with a winning time of 53.97 in the finals.

In the 100 freestyle, Creager was hoping to break Caroline Schik's school record of 54.99, but clocked a 56.88 to finish in 20th place. Creager entered the state meet seeded No. 21 out of 21 qualifiers with her section runner-up time of 56.60. Hill Murray's Madeline Lee claimed the final spot in the consolation finals with a 55.19 while Frey took third in 52.70. Little Falls' Whitney Weisz won the state title in 50.57 while Frey finished third in 52.62.

Erickson gave the Panthers their first swimmer in the finals by finishing 14th in the 500 freestyle with a 5:25.24 while Bemidji's Lexie Hendricks followed in 5:26.83. Erickson broke the school record and the section record with a 5:24.85 for the No. 13 seed out of 22 qualifiers. Wood had the top preliminary time of 4:53.83.

In the 100 backstroke, Erickson advanced by placing 15th with a personal-best time of 1:01.80 while Fergus Falls' Abby Fisher was 10th in 1:00.25. Sartell's Ellen Bloom had the top time of 56.63. Erickson advanced with a runner-up 1:02.76 at the section meet for the No. 20 seed out of 26 qualifiers.

Schirmers advanced to the finals for the first time by placing 10th with a 1:08.65 in the 100 breaststroke. Staples-Motley's Jaelin Beachy tied for sixth with a 1:07.90 while Perham's Kelsey Kratzke tied for 15th with a 1:09.72. St. Louis Park's Kathryn Ostrom had the top time of 1:04.90. Schirmers was the No. 7 seed out of 25 qualifiers with her section-winning time of 1:08.65.

Erickson, Zinke, Schirmers and Creager qualified for state in the 400 freestyle relay by breaking the school record with a 3:42.96 to be seeded 11th out of 23 teams. During Friday's preliminaries, Erickson's 56.62, Zinke's 56.11, Schirmers' 57.07 and Creager's 57.24 led to a 3:46.65 for 15th place. Bemidji followed in 3:46.66 while Sartell had the top time of 3:32.16.

In Saturday's finals of the 500 freestyle, Erickson scored 4 points by placing 13th in 5:23.42, which broke her school record. Hendricks finished 16th in 5:26.53 while Wood broke the state Class A record with a 4:49.68.

Erickson also scored 4 points in the 100 backstroke by finishing 13th in 1:01.25, which missed Brandi Werner's school record of 1:00.87. Fisher finished ninth in 1:00.19 while Bloom took first with a 55.88. Erickson finished 21st in 1:04.81 in 2009 and 18th in 1:03.35 last year in this event.

Schirmers scored 6 points by placing 11th in the 100 breaststroke with a 1:08.68, which was behind Beth Morris' school record of 1:06.76. Beachy finished sixth in 1:08.43 while Kratzke was 16th in 1:10.43. Ostrom took first in 1:04.65.

The 400 freestyle relay team scored 10 points by placing 12th in 3:46.01. Erickson led off with a 57.13, Zinke followed in 56.08, Schirmers clocked a 56.62 and Creager finished in 56.18. Bemidji finished 15th in 3:46.31 while Sartell won the state title in 3:32.12. Erickson and Creager swam on the Panthers' 400 freestyle relay team that finished 18th in 3:51.10 last season.

Sartell won the state title with 238 points. Northfield was second with 173 points while Hutchinson took third with 170 points. Bemidji finished 12th with 62 points, Detroit Lakes tied for 30th place with 15 points. Staples-Motley finished 33rd with 13 points, Fergus Falls tied for 34th with 9 points and Perham tied for 41st with 1 point.