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Swimmers look to offset low numbers with talent

As the lone senior, Lauren Rossman will be counted on to provide leadership for this year’s Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team.

     Expect another successful season from the Park Rapids girls swimming and diving team.

     The Panthers return 20 swimmers and divers from a team that went 6-1 in dual meets, won the Mid-State Conference title, finished second at the Section 8A meet and qualified five individuals in four events for the state Class A meet.

     That group will look to replace the spots vacated by the graduation of Ellen Hoffman, Taylor Graham, Christina Mackley and Seri Erickson. Hoffman was a three-time state qualifier in diving, holds the No. 2 spot in school history for six dives and 11 dives, and finished the season with 167.75 points. Graham was a state qualifier in the 200-yard medley relay in 2012 and tallied 295 points last season, moving up to the No. 4 spot in the 100 butterfly. Mackley scored 207.75 points last season and climbed to the No. 10 spot in school history in the 100 butterfly. Erickson finished the season with 172.50 points.

     Being counted on to lead the Panthers to another successful season are the returning veterans, led by senior Lauren Rossman and juniors Kayla Andersen, Tea Nyland and Paige Fritze. Those four competed at last year’s state meet in the 200 medley relay while Andersen and Nyland earned individual state berths. The 200 medley relay finished 19th while Andersen placed 17th in the 100 breaststroke and Nyland placed 18th in the 100 butterfly to just miss advancing to the finals.

     Also returning from last year’s team are juniors Jada Current, Alyza Edevold, MacKenzie Hensel, Riley Kimball, Isabela Simonson, Lexi Stevenson and Carly Waggoner; sophomores Jasmine Cease, Lydia Christensen, Caroline Drury, Sarah Merfeld and Trinah Szafranski; freshman Maija Hovelsrud; and eighth graders Katie Eischens, Sara Simpson and Olivia Ulvin.

     Fritze, Andersen, Nyland and Rossman won the 200 medley relay while Nyland (100 butterfly) and Andersen (100 breaststroke) also took first to earn all-conference honors in helping the Panthers win the Mid-State title with 418 points. Receiving all-conference honorable mention honors last season were Nyland (second) and Graham (third) in the 200 individual medley; Hoffman (third) in diving; Graham (second) and Mackley (third) in the 100 butterfly); Rossman (third) in the 100 freestyle; Andersen, Hoffman, Mackley and Edevold (second) in the 200 freestyle relay; and Fritze (third) in the 100 backstroke.

     At the Section 8A meet, Bemidji claimed the title with 438 points while the Panthers followed with 327 points. Fritze, Andersen, Nyland and Rossman took first in the 200 medley relay while Nyland broke the school record with a 59.36 to finish second in the 100 butterfly. Andersen also took second in the 100 breaststroke while Hoffman finished fourth in diving to give the Panthers five all-section performers and state qualifiers.        

     Receiving all-section honorable mention honors were Nyland (fourth) and Graham (fifth) in the 200 individual medley; Rossman (fifth) in the 50 freestyle; Graham (fourth) in the 100 butterfly; Rossman (sixth) and Fritze (seventh) in the 100 freestyle; Edevold (eighth) in the 500 freestyle; Rossman, Fritze, Edevold and Andersen (third) in the 200 freestyle relay; Fritze (sixth) and Hoffman (seventh) in the 100 backstroke; and Graham, Edevold, Mackley and Nyland (fifth) in the 400 freestyle relay.

     Also competing at the section meet last season were Edevold (10th), Mackley  (13th), Szafranski (18th) and Merfeld (22nd) in the 200 freestyle; Hovelsrud (15th) and Waggoner (17th) in the 200 individual medley; Andersen (11th) in the 50 freestyle; Current (11th) and Drury (13th) in diving; Mackley (ninth) in the 100 butterfly; Szafranski (15th) in the 100 freestyle; Merfeld (12th) and Simonson (14th in the 500 freestyle; Simonson (12th) and Christensen (20th) in the 100 backstroke; and Hovelsrud (11th) and Waggoner (23rd) in the 100 breaststroke.

     Nyland led the team with 385 points and moved to the No. 2 spot in school history in the 200 individual medley while Rossman received MVP honors after compiling 364.50 points and moving up to the No. 9 spot in the 100 freestyle. Andersen was third in points with 354.25 and holds the No. 3 spot in the 100 breaststroke. Fritze was fourth in points with 297 and is No. 9 in school history in the 100 backstroke.

     Edevold (267.50 points), Simonson (134.50), Hovelsrud (122), Szafranski (120.25) and Merfeld (102.50) also scored at least 100 points while Waggoner (98.75), Drury (74), Kimball (41.50), Current (32), Stevenson (31), Simpson (21), Cease (12), Christensen (11), Hensel (9.50), Ulvin (9.50) and Eischens (8) also played key roles a year ago.

     Adding depth for the Panthers this season will be seventh graders Jessica Kaseman and Chloe Voigt.

     “We’re low on numbers, but the girls have good attitudes and they’re working hard,” said head coach Todd Fritze, who will be assisted by Kristi Goochey and Mandy Schirmers. “We definitely have spots to fill. We’ll need the younger kids to step up and take on bigger roles. Half of our team is juniors and seniors who have been around a while and have experience. We won’t have the depth that we’ve had in the past, but we’re going to be OK.”

     As always, the Panthers’ main goals are to produce a winning record in dual meets, contend for the Mid-State Conference and Section 8A titles, and qualify as many swimmers and divers for the state Class A meet as possible.

     “We’re going to be OK for dual meets. The girls will have to work for what we want to accomplish,” said Fritze. “Our goal is to swim lifetime bests at the end of the season and get as many kids through to the state meet. I’m excited for the season.”