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Panthers entered section meet confident of qualifying for state

Alyza Edevold (alternate from left), Lauren Rossman, Paige Fritze, Ellen Hoffman, Christina Mackley (alternate), Kayla Andersen, Tea Nyland and Taylor Graham (alternate) will represent Park Rapids in four events at the state Class A girls swimming and diving meet, which begins Monday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

  Park Rapids’ Ellen Hoffman, Lauren Rossman, Kayla Andersen, Tea Nyland and Paige Fritze had different incentives entering last Saturday’s finals of the Section 8A girls swimming and diving meet at Bemidji.

     Hoffman was focused on capping off her senior season by qualifying for her third straight state Class A meet in diving.

     Rossman was looking to anchor the 200-yard medley relay team to state for the third time in her career.

     Andersen was hoping to return to state in a relay while also qualifying for state in an individual event.

     Nyland and Fritze were determined to earn their first trips to state.

     All five fulfilled their goals.

     Fritze, Andersen, Nyland and Rossman quickly gave the Panthers four state qualifiers by winning the section title in the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:54.83. Hoffman locked up her third state trip in diving by placing fourth for the third year in a row with 367.25 points. Nyland broke the school record in the 100 butterfly en route to a runner-up finish of 1:00.64 and a state berth. Andersen also qualified for state in an individual event with a runner-up showing of 1:12.51 in the 100 breaststroke.

     Hoffman will compete in the diving preliminaries Monday at noon while the four swimmers will compete in the swimming preliminaries Tuesday at noon at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. The top 16 will advance to the state finals Wednesday.

Medley relay earns state berth

     Easily taking second during last Friday’s preliminaries gave the medley relay plenty of confidence of advancing to state.

     Fritze, Andersen, Taylor Graham and Nyland clocked a runner-up 1:56.50 during preliminaries to trail Fergus Falls’ winning time of 1:54.49 and easily finish ahead of Perham’s 1:59.85.

     Fritze, Andersen, Nyland and Rossman were confident of holding that spot in Saturday’s finals.

     “I was really happy with our time,” said Fritze. “I didn’t want to jinx us, but I felt pretty confident we’d go in the medley.”

     “We were in a really good spot. We all swam well the first day,” said Andersen, who qualified for state as a member of the 200 freestyle relay team last year. “I was pretty confident. I thought our chances were pretty good. We just wanted to make sure our starts were safe.”

     “I thought we had a pretty good chance to get second and go to state,” said Nyland. “I had faith in us.”

     “We’re always strong in the medley and I felt good about our chances,” said Rossman, who was the anchor of the Panthers’ medley relay at state in 2010 and last year, was a member of the 200 freestyle relay team that qualified for state in 2010, and swam on the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relay teams that qualified for state last season. “I just wanted to help the relay make it to state.”

     In the finals, Fritze, Andersen, Nyland and Rossman ended up taking first in 1:54.83 when Fergus Falls was disqualified for a quick start. Perham claimed the other state berth with a runner-up 1:58.25.

     “When they called Perham second, I thought maybe we had DQ’d,” said Fritze. “When they called us first, it was so cool. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

     “My split wasn’t as good as Friday’s, but I was happy we made it,” said Andersen.

     “I knew we had a good chance,” said Nyland. “It was awesome when they said we took first.”

     “When I looked at the seed times, I knew we’d go to state,” said Rossman. “It was exciting.”

     The Panthers will enter the state meet seeded No. 18 out of 24 qualifiers. Visitation has the top time of 1:48.47. That foursome will be looking to drop time and qualify for the finals and take a shot at breaking the school record of 1:53.85 set by Katherine Erickson, Mandy Schirmers, Allycia Zinke and Emily Creager in 2011.

     “I hope we drop more time,” said Fritze. “I also hope we break the record.”

     “I definitely want us to drop time,” said Andersen. “I think we have a good chance to do that.”

     “I hope we make it to the second day,” said Nyland. “I think we have a chance to finish in the top 16.”

     “I want us to at least keep our time or drop time,” said Rossman, who helped the medley relay finish 15th with a 1:54.85 at state last year. “It’d be nice to finish in the top 16 and swim the second day.”

Hoffman returns in diving

     Despite being a state qualifier in diving the last two seasons, Hoffman entered her final section meet a little nervous about returning to state.

     “I was really nervous going in,” said Hoffman. “It was really important to make it my senior year.”

     After her first eight dives on Friday, Hoffman was in third place with 265.25 points. Bemidji’s Kylei Grosfield was first with 304.10 points while Detroit Lakes’ Kyley Foster was second with 297.95 points. Detroit Lakes’ Emma Disse was fourth with 256.10 points while Detroit Lakes’ Lexy Yliniemi was a distant fifth with 233.95 points.

     “My warm ups didn’t go as well as I hoped, but I did well in the meet,” said Hoffman. “After my first eight dives, I was pretty confident I’d get one of the four spots. With my competitiveness, I wanted to hold onto third place. I’ve finished fourth the last two years and I was hoping to get up to third this year.”

     In her final three dives Saturday, Hoffman received 102 points to finish fourth with 367.25 points. Grosfield took first with 442.80 points while Foster had 408.20 points and Disse moved up to third with 369.60 points. Hoffman took fourth in 2011 with 317.55 points and fourth last year with 314.85 points.

     Hoffman will be looking to cap off her third trip to state with her first trip to the finals. In 2011, Hoffman finished 28th with 113.80 points after five dives. Last season, Hoffman tallied 122.30 points in five dives. The top 20 of the 32 state divers Monday advance to the semifinals.

     “I think I can make the first cut this year,” said Hoffman.

“This is my last year, so I’m going to have fun and make it memorable.”

Nyland advances in record fashion

     Nyland’s main goal entering the section meet was to qualify for state in a relay and in an individual event.

     Breaking a school record in the process was an added bonus.

     Nyland was the No. 2 seed going into Friday’s preliminaries of the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:04.05. Nyland shattered her personal best by clocking a winning time of 59.36 with splits of 28.09 and 31.27. That broke Kyja Penning’s school record of 1:01.20 set in 2009 and was well ahead of the runner-up time of 1:02.25 clocked by Fergus Falls’ Abby Fisher.

     “I was hoping to go to state in a relay and an individual event and I achieved that,” said Nyland. “My goal at the beginning of the season was to get a 58 in the fly, but I changed that to get under a minute. I finished in between. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the board and saw a 59.36.”

     Despite that record-setting performance, Nyland was determined to avoid a repeat of last year’s section meet where she was the No. 2 seed after preliminaries but ended up placing fifth in the finals.

     Fisher ended up winning the section title in 59.63 while Nyland followed in 1:00.64 with splits of 28.24 and 32.40. Bemidji’s Libby McRae was third in 1:01.49.

     “I was so close last year, but I was very confident this year,” said Nyland. “I wasn’t too nervous. I was hoping to go faster.”

     Nyland is seeded No. 16 out of 27 state qualifiers with her section runner-up time of 1:00.64. However, her 59.36 would move her up to the No. 8 seed. Mankato West’s Danielle Nack has the top time of 55.26.

     “I think I’m going to be really nervous,” said Nyland. “I’m hoping to get in the top 8.”

Andersen wins close race to qualify

     Andersen also had a goal of advancing to state in a relay and individual event.

     Taking second in the 100 breaststroke completed that mission.

     “I wanted to make it to state as an individual and in a relay,” said Andersen. “I was happy with how I did, especially in the breaststroke.”

     At last year’s section meet, Andersen just missed qualifying for state by tying for third place behind Staples-Motley’s Jaelin Beachy and Park Rapids’ Hannah Williams.

     When Beachy (who earned all-state honors in this event twice by placing sixth in 2011 and fifth last year) elected to swim the 100 freestyle instead and with the graduation of Williams, Andersen was in position to earn a state berth.

     Andersen entered the section meet as the No. 4 seed with a time of 1:15.16. Fergus Falls’ Emilie Reard had the best seed time of 1:12.74 while Bemidji’s Danielle Hoven was second at 1:13.97 and Warroad’s Erin Thompson was third at 1:14.48.

     Andersen solidified her position during Friday’s preliminaries by finishing second in 1:11.51 with splits of 33.28 and 38.23. Reard had the top time of 1:11.43 while Hoven was third in 1:12.92.

     “After the first day I felt pretty good,” said Andersen. “I just wanted to drop more time.”

     Even though Andersen’s time went up to a 1:12.51 with splits of 33.66 and 38.85 in the finals, that effort was good enough to secure second place. Reard won the section title in 1:11.21 while Hoven was a close third in 1:12.57.

     “I knew it would be close, but I was pretty confident,” said Andersen. “After tying for third last year, it was really sweet to make it this year. I was really happy and really relieved.”

     Andersen will face a challenge to advance to the state finals after entering as the No. 27 seed out of 27 qualifiers. Albert Lea’s Lindsey Horejsi has the top seed time of 1:01.81.

     “It’s sweet getting down there,” said Andersen. “I’d like to drop time and try and get in the top 16.”