Penning qualifies for state in diving

Kyja Penning had two main goals entering this year's Section 8A meet Friday and Saturday at Detroit Lakes. The first was to return to the state Class A meet in diving. The second was to break the school record in the 100-yard butterfly. Penning a...

Kyja Penning
Kyja Penning qualified for the state Class A diving meet for the second year in a row with a runner-up showing at Saturday's Section 8A meet. (Vance Carlson / Enterprise)

Kyja Penning had two main goals entering this year's Section 8A meet Friday and Saturday at Detroit Lakes.

The first was to return to the state Class A meet in diving. The second was to break the school record in the 100-yard butterfly.

Penning achieved both of those goals in impressive fashion.

During Friday's preliminaries, Penning accomplished one goal by clocking a third-place time of 1:02.97 in the 100 butterfly. That broke Julie Benjamin's school record of 1:03.11, which was set back in 1983, and easily met the state-qualifying time of 1:03.29.

After the first round of diving, Penning put herself in position to achieve her other goal by tallying 249.25 points to sit comfortably in second place.


After Friday's first eight dives, Penning trailed only one diver: Detroit Lakes' Shayna Dugger, who had a 271.20 total. Penning was ahead of the Detroit Lakes duo of Taryn Kobriger (236.35) and Bre Halbur (231.40). Warroad's Kayla Colden (214.60) and Chloe Vettel (208.55) were also within striking distance for the four state berths.

"I wanted to get either first or second and get another trip down to state," said Penning, who was the section runner-up in diving last year with 317.45 points. "Going in I thought it would be close. My approach on my first dive was all off, but after that I got back in the zone and had six really good dives."

"Kyja was right where we wanted her to be," said Park Rapids diving coach Kristi Goochey. "All eight of her dives were clean and she had three really good dives left. I figured she would hold her place."

During Saturday's finals, Penning hit her final three dives and was able to hang onto second place to earn a return trip to state. The Park Rapids junior finished with 342.30 points to trail only Dugger, who defended her section title with 381.80 points. Halbur finished third with 330.80 points while Kobriger claimed the final state berth with 320.05 points. Colden finished a distant fifth with 289.15 points.

"I had three of my more consistent dives left, so I knew my chances (of going to state) were pretty good," said Penning. "I wanted to take first, but as long as I'm going to state I'm happy."

"Based on the season she had, I was 95 percent positive Kyja would return to state," said Goochey. "Her only loss to a section diver was to Shayna at the Mid-State Conference meet. Taking first would have been icing on the cake, but we're happy with second."

Penning saw her chance to qualify for state in the 100 butterfly slip away as her 1:04.11 resulted in a fifth-place showing.

"Breaking the school record was cool," said Penning, who has only been swimming the butterfly for two years. "It's too bad I didn't break it in the finals. I got super nervous Saturday. I let my nerves get the best of me. I'm still new at this. Hopefully I can make it (to state) next year."


Penning will now look to improve on her performance at last year's state meet, where she placed 16th with 242.30 points.

The state diving preliminaries will be held Thursday at noon with the finals set for Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

"Kyja has been a consistent diver all year," said Park Rapids head coach Todd Fritze. "She has higher DDs (degree of difficulty) and she has a year more experience. I think she'll do better down there."

"Kyja had a solid season last year, but this year she has higher DDs on all her optional dives and she is good at them, which makes a huge difference," said Goochey. "Kyja is the most consistent diver I've ever coached. She has 11 very solid dives and I see her finishing in the top eight. I've never had a diver win a state medal, but if Kyja hits all her dives, she has a good chance of being the first."

"I'm going to focus on what I need to do and hopefully I'll hit all my dives," said Penning. "Last year I was so nervous, but this year I'm looking forward to it. If I can score consistently in the 5s and 6s, I think I can do really well. I'm going to try and finish in the top 10 and hopefully medal."

Panthers finish fifth as team

While Fergus Falls swam away with the team title, the Panthers used lifetime bests by every swimmer to finish fifth in the team standings.

The Panthers compiled 249 points to finish fifth behind Fergus Falls' 470, Warroad's 287, Detroit Lakes' 262 and Perham/New York Mills' 251.50.


"The girls swam awesome. This was one of our best meets ever at sections," said Fritze, who shared Section 8A Coach of the Year honors with Fergus Falls' Tom Uvaas and Perham's Sheri Ressler. "Going in, we knew it was going to be a very fast meet. Our goal was to get 100 percent lifetime bests and we missed on only one swim. We had some big drops, so for us it was a very successful meet."

The Panthers opened Saturday's finals by scoring 32 points in the 200 medley relay with a third-place time of 1:59.99. Taylor Ondracek, Mandy Schirmers, Penning and Allycia Zinke just missed qualifying for state as Warroad claimed the second state berth with a 1:59.56. Those four swimmers clocked a 2:00.59 for third place during Friday's preliminaries.

In the 200 freestyle, Emily Creager finished sixth in 2:10.15 and Katherine Erickson finished ninth in 2:11.29 to give the Panthers 22 points in that event. In the preliminaries, Creager was eighth in 2:10.40, Erickson was 16th in 2:12.49 and Leah Meinert was 17th in 2:12.76.

Melissa Haas' eighth-place time of 2:31.39 and Mandy Schirmers' ninth-place time of 2:28.90 gave the Panthers 20 points in the 200 individual medley. During Friday's preliminaries, Haas was eighth in 2:29.52, Schirmers finished 10th in 2:30.34 and Abby Hanson was 20th in 2:40.97.

Ondracek and Zinke were both disqualified for false starts in the finals of the 50 freestyle. Hannah Williams finished 13th in 28.27. In the preliminaries, Zinke was ninth in 27.12, Ondracek finished 14th in 27.72, Williams was 17th in 28.02 and Heather Kniss finished 29th in 30.33.

Following Penning's runner-up 342.30 points in diving was Jessica Andersen, who finished 15th with 210.45 points. Heather Kniss finished 17th with 149.15 points.

Park Rapids scored 23 points in the 100 butterfly behind Penning's fifth-place finish, Alexa Zunich-Andersen's 11th-place time of 1:12.03 and Hanson's 14th-place time of 1:12.92. In the preliminaries, Zunich-Andersen was 11th in 1:11.36, Hanson was 16th in 1:15.24 and Nicole Knott was 24th in 1:19.69.

Creager's 11th-place time of 1:00.20 and Zinke's 14th-place time of 1:01.04 led to 9 points in the 100 freestyle. Creager finished 10th in 59.55 and Zinke was 14th in 1:00.35 during preliminaries.


Meinert finished eighth in 6:00.58 in the 500 freestyle for 11 points. Meinert clocked a 5:51.62 for fifth place while Williams went 6:16.25 for 17th place during prelims.

Penning, Williams, Creager and Meinert finished sixth in the 200 freestyle relay with a 1:49.12 for 26 points. Penning, Ondracek, Creager and Meinert finished sixth during preliminaries with a 1:49.89.

Ondracek's fourth-place 1:05.92 and Erickson's ninth-place 1:09.20 led to 24 points in the 100 backstroke. Ondracek was fifth with a 1:06.78, Erickson was ninth with a 1:08.87 and Knott was 22nd in 1:16.98 during preliminaries.

The Panthers scored 31 points in the 100 breaststroke as Schirmers finished sixth in 1:16.67, Haas was eighth in 1:19.15 and Zunich-Andersen placed 10th in 1:18.58. During prelims, Schirmers was sixth in 1:16.27, Haas was eighth in 1:17.38 and Zunich-Andersen took 10th in 1:18.50.

Park Rapids capped off the meet by placing fifth in the 400 freestyle relay. Creager, Meinert, Erickson and Zinke clocked a 4:01.66 for 26 points. In prelims, that group clocked a 4:02.67 for seventh place.

There were eight meet records set at this year's section meet. Fergus Falls broke the 200 medley relay record with a time of 1:51.49 and shattered the 400 freestyle relay record with a 3:40.93. Warroad's Karley Sylvester broke the record in the 200 freestyle with a 2:00.72. Fergus Falls' Kara Fisher broke records in the 200 individual medley with a 2:11.18 and in the 100 backstroke with a 1:00.12. Fergus Falls' Heidi Busack set meet records with a 24.58 in the 50 freestyle and a 53.11 in the 100 freestyle. Detroit Lakes' Melissa Paakh broke the record in the 100 butterfly with a 59.25.

Team scores: Fergus Falls 470, Warroad 287, Detroit Lakes 262, Perham/New York Mills 251.50, Park Rapids 249, Thief River Falls 239.50, Fosston/Bagley 144, Crookston 127, Roseau 102, Lake of the Woods 14.

Individual results


200 medley relay: 1, Fergus Falls, 1:51.49 (meet record; old record: 1:54.22 by Fergus Falls in 2007). 2, Warroad, 1:59.56. 3, Park Rapids (Ondracek, Schirmers, Penning, Zinke), 1:59.99.

200 freestyle: 1, Sylvester, W, 2:00.72 (meet record; old record: 2:01.71 by Lawrenz, DL, in 2006). 2, Koch, C, 2:05.11. 6, Creager, PR, 2:10.15. 9, K. Erickson, PR, 2:11.29. 17, Meinert, PR, 2:12.76.

200 individual medley: 1, Fisher, FF, 2:11.18 (meet record; old record: 2:13.16 by Fisher, FF, in 2007). 2, Paakh, DL, 2:17.09. 8, Haas, PR, 2:31.39. 9, Schirmers, PR, 2:28.90. 20, Hanson, PR, 2:40.97.

50 freestyle: 1, Busack, FF, 24.58 (meet record; old record: 24.72 by Riggs, FB, in 2000). 2, Thompson, W, 25.00. 13, Williams, 28.27. 29, Kniss, PR, 30.33.

Diving: 1, Dugger, DL, 381.80 points. 2, Penning, PR, 342.30. 3, Halbur, DL, 330.80. 4, Kobriger, DL, 320.05. 15, Andersen, PR, 210.45. 17, Kniss, PR, 149.15.

100 butterfly: 1, Paakh, DL, 59.26. 2, Kitzman, FF, 1:01.14. 5, Penning, PR, 1:04.11. 11, Zunich-Andersen, PR, 1:12.03. 14, Hanson, PR, 1:12.92. 24, Knott, PR, 1:19.69.

100 freestyle: 1, Busack, FF, 53.11 (meet record; old record: 54.47 by Busack, FF, in 2007). 2, Thompson, W, 53.62. 11, Creager, PR, 1:00.20. 14, Zinke, PR, 1:01.04.

500 freestyle: 1, Larson, DL, 5:32.96. 2, Anderson, FF, 5:41.11. 8, Meinert, PR, 6:00.58. 17, Williams, PR, 6:16.25


200 freestyle relay: 1, Fergus Falls, 1:45.04. 2, Thief River Falls, 1:45.62. 6, Park Rapids (Penning, Williams, Creager, Meinert), 1:49.12.

100 backstroke: 1, Fisher, FF, 1:00.12 (meet record; old record: 1:01.74 by Fisher, FF, in 2007). 2, Koch, C, 1:03.20. 4, Ondracek, PR, 1:05.92. 9, K. Erickson, PR, 1:09.20. 22, Knott, PR, 1:16.98.

100 breaststroke: 1, Monk, FF, 1:11.43. 2, K. Kratzke, P/NYM, 1:11.72. 6, Schirmers, PR, 1:16.67. 8, Haas, PR, 1:19.15. 10, Zunich-Andersen, PR, 1:18.58.

400 freestyle relay: 1, Fergus Falls, 3:40.93 (meet record; old record: 3:45.36 by Warroad in 2001). 2, Warroad, 3:50.46. 5, Park Rapids (Creager, Meinert, K. Erickson, Zinke), 4:01.66.

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